Hope Theatre, London – until 19 May 2018
A curious one, this. The first half of Michael Head’s Worth A Flutter is full of the kind of broad, sitcom-like humour of which I’m no real fan. But after the interval, a more thoughtful strand to his writing emerges and with surreal touches threaded throughout both, a fascinating, if slightly flawed, production is the result.
Set in and around a Bermondsey greasy spoon, the play follows the romantic trials and tribulations of Matt and Sam, as they both pursue caff owner Helen. Matt’s got a high-maintenance fiancée who is an uncontrollable flirt and Sam is deeply, unhappily married, but both see a way out, over bacon sandwiches and drily witty conversation. Trouble is, they don’t know about each other.
Head himself plays the brash and loud Matt in the bawdier first half, espousing a chatty blokiness which may not have been my own cup of tea but had many in the audience guffawing. And rattling through brief caricatures of the other people in his life, Lucy Pinder and Paul Danan acquit themselves decently while Clare McNamara’s Helen shines via her enigmatic aura.
The emotional stakes are raised with the arrival of Jack Harding’s Sam, switching the narrative to something more involving and probing at something interesting in the different ways men and women perceive what is acceptable in the arena of infidelity. And if the play’s sense of humour might not always chime with my own, sequences that involved a man’s dialogue with his penis, or a horse race based on ‘things not to say on the first date’ certainly perk the interest.