MOULDY GRAPES – White Bear Theatre

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White Bear Theatre, London – until 30 September 2017

“I’ve been dipping my spoon in both the chocolate and the vanilla ice-cream”… The thing with open relationships is that everyone needs to be on the same page. The eccentric Roo has a fear of going outside as well as wearing trousers so the agreement has been made that his boyfriend Liam can sleep with other men. But when the person he brings home one particular night turns out to be a woman, the gobby Jess, that openness flicks over into much more complex terrain.

Such is the world of Mouldy Grapes, the assured debut production from new company Break The ‘Verse, a group of recent East 15 graduates. Directed by Dom Riley and written by Monty Jones and Ellie Sparrow and “enhanced through devising”, what surprises most about the play is the way in which it manages to combine its smart study of the fluidity of sexual identities with a classic comedy model, and pull both off successfully.

This it does by never sacrificing character for cheap laughs or thrills. Instead, we feel every bit of the fear that underscores the agoraphobia that traps Jones’ Roo, even as he masks it with his magnificently flamboyant collection of jumpers. We see the frustration at being the sole breadwinner that has pushed Tea Poldvervaart’s Liam to dishonesty. We also get a perspective from the other side with Sparrow’s Jess trying to justify her position as ‘the other woman’.

And as we explore the point where sexual experimentation bleeds into selfishness, where lies threaten to overwhelm love, the introduction of Adam Willis’ Paul is inspired. The boys’ landlord – he’s a character you suspect Victoria Wood would have been proud to inspire – his presence nudges Mouldy Grapes ever closer to farce territory, hilariously so at times and yet even he is shown to have real heart too, he’s not just a punchline. A sparklingly witty debut from this young company.
Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)Booking until 30th September

Ian Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."

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Ian Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."