Monday, 5 September 2016

Theatre review: Unfaithful

Back to the popup venue that can't pop down again soon enough for my liking, Found111. The chairs are still uncomfortable but at least now they actually seem to have been designed for adult humans to sit on, rather than stolen from a dollhouse; and there's even a bit of a rake in the traverse seating for Unfaithful. Owen McCafferty's play sees a younger and older couple cross paths in ways that put both relationships at risk: Married plumber Tom (Sean Campion) is having a drink after work when a much younger woman, Tara (Ruta Gedmintas,) starts flirting with him, before out-and-out suggesting sex in an alley. Tom returns to his dinnerlady wife Joan (Niamh Cusack) to confess he slept with Tara. In revenge, Joan arranges a date with male escort Peter (Matthew Lewis.) Tara is Peter's girlfriend, and her frustration at what he does for a living might be what leads her to hit on other men.

The play actually opens with Tom confessing his unfaithfulness to Joan, before flashing back to his meeting Tara in the bar; the story is told out of order but actually remains fairly vague on what the actual order of events is - was Joan hiring Peter retaliation, or had she actually done it already?

In fact there's certainly a lot of lies and omissions going on, even when the characters appear to be pouring their hearts out to each other - their stories frequently change and a couple of times they contradict things the audience has seen. It means Unfaithful touches on some interesting ideas around not just infidelity but also the lies people tell themselves and each other; but Adam Penford's production feels a little bit uncertain what we're supposed to make of it all. The ending sees both couples apparently stronger for their difficulties, but the production hedges its bets on whether we're meant to believe that.

I never quite warmed to the script either - it's rather uniformly angry, and while there are some genuinely sexy moments (I don't think the shaved chest is a good look on Matt Lewis but it probably is pretty accurate for his role as a man-ho*,) some of the more graphic dialogue, especially Tom's extended "Dear Penthouse" description of sex with Tara, feels like it's just there to shock. And the younger couple's dialogue feels a bit unnatural and forced at times - or maybe it's everyone's dialogue, and the more experienced pair are just better at hiding it.

Certainly we get some strong performances from Cusack and Campion, whose characters are the ones the play is most interested in. Cusack always gives a stellar performance and it's great to see her do her thing this close. I can't say I didn't enjoy Unfaithful but I didn't really know what to make of it either. I think it comes down to the fact that it's meant to put the characters and audience on the back foot a lot, which is fine if I get the feeling that the production, at least, is confident it knows what's going on; that wasn't a feeling I really got here.

Unfaithful by Owen McCafferty is booking until the 8th of October at Found111.

Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes straight through.

Photo credit: Marc Brenner.

*it's also the second show in a row he's spent talking about his cock so he might as well go Full Radcliffe and get it out - that Schlong From Far Away award ain't going to give itself out you know.

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