King’s Head Theatre, London – until 4 August 2019
Annie and Rob fall through their door, drunk and giggling. It’s their wedding night and they’ve got plans, but it turns out they’re not alone. When Annie discovers a naked man in their bed who turns out to be Rob’s ex-boyfriend, a hilariously weird chain of events kicks off with unpredictable results.
It sounds like the start of a sketch, but writer Oliver Page stretches the premise into an hour-long show. There’s a lot to dig into, particularly around notions of trust, sexuality and acceptance, but Page sticks to a format of short-form gags. There are moments that are incredibly funny, but this isn’t a play that really digs into the knotty issues the initial set-up exposes. It’s not thematically thin, but these themes are very much glossed over in the unceasing quest for the next joke.
Director Ed Theakston does a superb job with pace and timing. Every line is impeccably delivered with a comedic end it sight, but it does not feel engineered or forced. The rapid-fire delivery and quick transitions instinctively supports the writing style rather than forcing the script to try to be something it isn’t.
The performances are also excellent, though it’s a shame the cast is all white. Jane Christie as Annie visibly wrestles with her boyfriend’s past – she’s a self-described liberal, but needs to know whether Rob swallowed, and if he was a top or bottom. Rowland Stirling as Rob is a ridiculous and flamboyant man-child who struggles to cope with the situation, and admitting that he is the cause of it in the first place. George Rennie is the cooly baffled Jacob whose attempts to leave increase in desperation. It’s easy to feel sorry for this poor lad trapped in the middle of a new marriage with so many issues needing to be resolved.
The story could take numerous paths, and Page’s constant zigzagging keeps action moving and the audience guessing. Even the ending provides a last-minute surprise, but there’s scope to turn this high comedy into something more sophisticated that more fully explores the questions it raises about love, commitment and the thorny parts of a person’s sexual past that makes them delightfully human.