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A CurtainUp London Review
Overweight, depressed Tim (John Cummins) is coming to terms with the death of his grandmother and the lack of anything meaningful in his own life. He has no job, no prospects and one friend from university, Mark (Geoffrey Streatfeild) who is a successful marketing executive and who smooth talks women into bed with him.
Cassie (Alison O'Donnell) is a young Scottish feminist who works as an activist for a feminist organisation to lobby parliament and needs someone to share the costs of her flat. She has landed a job in a sleazy karaoke bar and found a flatmate on Gumtree, an internet website mainly used by the 20 something Londoner flat dwellers. Rose (Sinead Matthews), the flat mate has some very zany ideas and a quixotic personality. She believes in fairies, numerology and most dangerous of all, love at first sight— amd has a lot to learn about what motivates marketing executives.
Geoffrey Streatfeild is perfect as Mark, the smooth operator who convinces women that he shares their interests rather than just wanting them for sex, goes back with Rose to the flat where one morning he meets Cassie. Alison O'Donnell's feminist is at first quite aggressively militant but succumbs to Mark's campaign to convince her he finds feminist theorist fascinating. I thought she might have sussed him when she tells him about a meeting he professes interest in but indicates that she isn't free to go but later our feminist falls into the sub dom game whose rules he dictates.
I know that there are hopelessly deluded romantics out there like Sinead Matthew's Rose, but her obsessive attachment to the wrong man makes one think ‘bunny boiler’ or mental health issues rather than cute cookie, which cuts down on the believability quotient. However Penelope Skinner's excellent dialogue lifts the play above a black comedy rom com. —— Rose's desperation "to win back Mark" has her surprising him in a £400 frock (money that should have gone on the rent) and a specific onstage sex act. Sinead Matthews plays Rose with a curiously appealing naivety and complete lack of guile. She is the antithesis of Streatfeild's snake like sexual predator. John Cummins gives a sensitive performance as Tim, the bit of a loser.
Designer Hannah Clark, taking her inspiration from the yellow line that London Underground travellers have to stand behind on platforms, gives us a line to follow up the stairs at the Bush and into the auditorium playing area. Four red plastic chairs are the only stage furniture allowed on the narrow traverse stage.
This curiously named play is not for those who shy off sex, gore and tidy endings. But at £13 to £15 for a seat, the Bush is the best theatrical value in London.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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