Review: The Leisure Society @ Trafalgar Studios

(l-r) Melanie Gray, Agyness Deyn, Paul Schwab, Ed Stoppard. Photo by Lydia GoldBlatt.


At first I feared if this play was going to turn out to be Montreal’s homage to Alan Ayckbourn. Not only were my fears unfounded, but this was one of the very few plays about middle class marital issues that I truly enjoyed. A young married couple, Peter and Mary, are juggling busy jobs (which they won’t give up because they want the lifestyle), a new baby that cries all the time as well as their own lives and aspirations. They aim to be good respectable parents, as is expected of them, by giving up smoking and drinking and trying to lead a ‘normal’ life. They invite a friend, Mark, over one weekend ostensibly to tell him that they do not wish to remain friendly with him. Mark doesn’t turn up on his own but brings with him a much younger ‘special friend’ Paula and a box of wine. The evening that unfolds can’t be more spectacularly hedonistic to the evening that Peter and Mary first envisaged. They start the evening with roast beef and end the night with a threesome. A potent subversion.

This fast paced comic play has shades of Woody Allen about it – dissatisfaction, angst, self deception leading to the realisation that, in the end, we have no choice but to muddle through the various upheavals throughout our lives. The play is also about grieving; here the married couple grieves for a life that can no longer be suitable to their present circumstances of starting a new family. Their friend Mark thinks he has it all because he can sleep with as many women as he wants and still be able to care for his daughter but we all know that he is leading a car-crash life. There are also some uncomfortable truths about adoption and abortion in a society that wants the perfect things at the perfect time. These themes are presented in a comic fashion but the laughter shouldn’t detract the audience from mulling over the solemnity of what they see before them. There are one or two improbable lines/development in the play but the overall context compensates much and beyond for these.

The small cast of four delivers a compelling performance. Ed Stoppard’s Peter is the ‘new renaissance man’ who is torn between what he wants and what is expected of him and who ultimately lacks courage. Melanie Gray gives us a sprightly Mary who is determined to thwart society’s expectations of her but in the end accepts her life with resignation. There are, however, times when Gray seems a little inexperienced in portraying motherhood and the complexity that comes with it. Agyness Deyn is excellent as the young and carefree Paula whose approach to sex cracks the ‘glossy’ marriage of her hosts. For me, John Schwab stands out the most for his portrayal of hard drinking, promiscuous Mark. He has the sexual prowess, the swagger and yet the vacuity that underlines the shallowness of his thinking.

★★★★☆
Until 31 March 2012.
Written by Francois Archambault.
Translated by Bobby Theodore.
Directed by Harry Burton.
Performance time is approximately 90 minutes with no interval.
http://www.atgtickets.com/

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About manipillai

Oh, just a few of my thoughts on theatre.
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