Tag Archives: Above the Stag

The Morning After

The Morning After



Above the Stag

The Morning After

The Morning After

Above the Stag

Reviewed – 24th January 2020

 

“a play that sets comedy back 40 years and sends meaningful gay drama back to the Stone Age”

 

In the 1970s many television sitcoms attracted thousands of viewers, but today would probably be avoided and largely filed away under “embarrassing nostalgia.”

Unless they happen to be a devotee of Reg Varney or Jack Smethurst discerning audiences of today are likely to seek their laughs elsewhere, regarding those shows of yesteryear offensive and of their time.

Proving that this is not always the case is a play at Above the Stag billed as a “modern sex comedy.” The big problem with The Morning After is that it is none of those things.

There is every reason to hope Peter Quilter’s 2012 play would raise a titter, not least because of the writer’s pedigree (his Judy Garland musical-drama End of the Rainbow was an enormous stage hit and indeed was adapted for the recent award-winning film Judy) and the theatre’s record of edgy and often subversive fare.

Originally written with a gay couple at its core it was difficult to sell, so rewritten with a straight couple and became popular internationally. Frankly, it is hard to understand how it could be celebrated in either form, but here it receives the premiere of its first intention.

Its admittedly awkward story about love, sex and relationships is somehow unconventional yet predictable, with two-dimensional characters struggling to be believable and falling at the first hurdle.

Played out on yet another excellent set at the theatre designed by David Shields, a bedroom in which we see people waking up in each scene on mornings over a period of time, what little humour is present (there’s maybe four or five laugh out loud funny lines) evaporates rapidly. The repeated theme of mum and uncle walking into the intimate goings-on of the young lovebirds becomes tiresome remarkably quickly and even sauciness with doughnuts and underwear can’t make a silk purse.

Three of the four-strong cast are from an offbeat family with no inhibitions, while the fourth is the nervous new boyfriend of the son. While the quartet do their best to be larger than life the play breaks all the rules of good situation comedy, in which the audience virtually feels they are part of the family as each sharp witticism is bounced into the story.

Chris Cahill (Adam), Colleen Daley (Barbara) and Matthew Lloyd Davies (Martin) go big and bold to find some level of melodrama, but it is impossible to believe that poor David Fenne’s Thomas would ever dream of staying around such an infuriating bunch of people rather than making a hasty dash for the exit, as we learn several previous boyfriends have done before.

Fine director Andrew Beckett tries his best to inject a frenzied energy but even his artistic skill is to no avail. Strong lighting (Jamie Platt) and sound (Andy Hill) cues can add nothing to the lacklustre script.

As you shift uncomfortably and look longingly at your watch there is then a shameful scene which essentially mocks someone’s deafness. This is not an oversensitive reaction, it is shock that any contemporary play or production should seek to find any humour in something so abhorrent and fail to recognise it. “It’s only a joke,” is ignorant evasion of an affront that needs to be called out.

If you want comedic satisfaction from eccentric families stick with The Simpsons or flirt with Outnumbered.

We have come to expect something far more challenging from this leading LGBTQIA+ venue. Far better to catch the engaging Four Play in its studio theatre than bother with a play that sets comedy back 40 years and sends meaningful gay drama back to the Stone Age.

 

Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by PBG Studios

 


The Morning After

Above the Stag until 1st March

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Title Of Show | ★★★★ | February 2019
Goodbye Norma Jeane | ★★ | March 2019
Romance Romance | ★★★★ | March 2019
Queereteria TV | ★★ | April 2019
Fanny & Stella: The Shocking True Story  | ★★★★ | May 2019
Happily Ever Poofter | ★★★★ | July 2019
Velvet | ★★★ | October 2019
Pinocchio: No Strings Attached! | ★★★★ | November 2019
Four Play | ★★★ | January 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Four Play

Four Play

★★★

Above the Stag

Four Play

Four Play

Above the Stag

Reviewed – 21st January 2020

★★★

 

“you’ll go and you’ll have a good time, but there’s not much of a lasting impression”

 

Since its inception in 2015, Four Play has more or less consistently had a production somewhere in London – a feat that usually only Shakespeare and Chekhov achieve. Does that mean Jake Brunger’s play is of the same calibre? Alas, not quite.

Four Play’s plot is kickstarted when Rafe (Ashley Byam) and Pete (Keeran Blessie), getting some serious FOMO from being each other’s only ever partners for the past seven years, proposition their friend Michael (Declan Spaine) to sleep with each of them to get all their anxieties out of their systems, which ultimately exposes the cracks in their relationship, as well as the jealousies in the supposedly polygamous arrangement Michael has with Andrew (Marc MacKinnon). The play gently touches on the idea of monogamy and whether the traditions of heterosexual relationships can simply be transposed onto homosexual relationships, although if you’re seeking a deep and nuanced exploration then look elsewhere; this is mostly frivolous stuff.

Brunger’s script is full of quips about labradoodles and your nan watching porn, and can sometimes feel like it relies on them a little too heavily to mask a lack of substance. This especially shows in what are clearly some updates to the references in the script – an exasperating gag about Apple TV stuck out as a particular offender. The writing does find moments of really juicy tension – a dinner party with all four characters was a notable highlight, in which Rafe and Pete try to maintain a lie that they’re unaware Andrew already knows is a lie. The script also moves at an excellent pace for the most part, although the final few scenes outstay their welcome a little.

The performances are also a mixed bag – Byam is radiantly energetic as Rafe but he and Blessie struggle to find chemistry, while Spaine’s aloofness teeters into an unengaged apathy a little too often. MacKinnon finds a lovely amount of depth in Andrew, with a standout performance at the aforementioned dinner party, and some very poignant moments with Rafe. The actors overall feel somewhat over-directed by Matthew Iliffe, resulting in an inauthenticity that makes it clear when someone’s been told to sit down or move across the stage or gesticulate in a certain way, which is a shame as Carrie-Ann Stein’s modern kitchen set design establishes a genuine domesticity so effectively.

Four Play ultimately feels like fast food theatre. Like a trip to McDonalds, you’ll go and you’ll have a good time, but there’s not much of a lasting impression and there’s nothing to really chew on.

 

Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by PBG Studios

 


Four Play

Above the Stag until 22nd February

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Title Of Show | ★★★★ | February 2019
Goodbye Norma Jeane | ★★ | March 2019
Romance Romance | ★★★★ | March 2019
Queereteria TV | ★★ | April 2019
Fanny & Stella: The Shocking True Story  | ★★★★ | May 2019
Happily Ever Poofter | ★★★★ | July 2019
Velvet | ★★★ | October 2019
Pinocchio: No Strings Attached! | ★★★★ | November 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews