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A CurtainUp London Review
Joy (Pippa Haywood) is a GP married to a teacher Alan (Stuart McQuarrie). Their marriage is all but dead in the bedroom as Alan makes explicit and bodged sexual demands on Joy but has no idea how to bring romance into sex. One of his techniques is to tell her that her vagina will atrophy from lack of use, another advocating oral sex, that semen has anti-depressant qualities for the recipient!
Joy has memories of a happy honeymoon with Alan but when she meets Stephen (Charles Edwards) a friend from university she realises that her libido has been lying dormant. In the most effectively staged scene, Joy goes to a pub with Stephen while Alan goes for a drink in another pub with a younger colleague from school Clare (Sian Brooke). We see both couples push past each other as if in a crowded room of people they do not know, so their conversation intercepts each other.
Meanwhile Joy and Alan's fifteen year old son Tim (James Musgrave) is asking his more experienced schoolfriend Michelle (Isabella Laughland), also fifteen, to coach him in the art of lovemaking so he may approach a girl in the sixth form without looking like a virgin. Their forays into sex lessons are funny and touching and with unintended consequences. Joy seeks advice to revive her marriage and the schoolgirl fantasy scene staged for Alan goes horribly awry. Maybe some of it is to do with Alan keeping his socks on in bed? Maybe Joy's professional approach is overflowing into her personal life making her detached and clinical?
Nick Payne's portrait of the schoolmate bed fellows rings true and hopeful whereas the adults have a history of infidelity and pain which dominates the present. The performances are strong as is Simon Godwin's direction in the simple set, one side a double bed, the other the school office and to the fore, Joy's GP consulting room. I particularly like James Musgrave's funny and frank Tim and the openly sensitive portrayal of Michelle by Isabella Laughland. Nick Payne's contribution to the lust versus love debate has a depressing outlook for middle age.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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