AN EVENING OF SEX
A E Harris Building, Birmingham, Sunday 3rd December, 2017
A small but discerning audience gathers on a chilly afternoon in a converted factory building in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. On offer is ‘An Evening of Sex’ but before we can get too excited, the programme notes reveal that the three short plays we are about to see are united by one factor: the characters do not have sex. Frankly, I’m relieved.
First up is a one-hander, so to speak, written and directed by Dominic Thompson and performed by Jack McBride. Martin wakes up hungover and handcuffed to a toilet. It’s his first wedding anniversary and he’s missed a lot of voicemail from his Mrs. He’s due to fly with her to Dublin and time is running out. McBride holds our attention well – as the bottom falls out of Martin’s world, and the arse hangs out of his trousers. There is some neat physical comedy here as Martin drops his phone into the bowl and has to fish it out again, using a sock as a glove, and McBride swaps in and out of the character of a cleaning woman with clarity and ease. This is a natty piece of writing from Thompson, fresh and contemporary. We never learn why Martin’s so-called mate has done this to him, but that’s a minor point.
Fred and Ginger
Next up: a two-hander that charts the relationship between schoolfriends, Carl and Izzy. We meet them at rehearsals for their annual school production, in a sort of Neil Simon Same Time, Next Year kind of way. In four scenes, we see them grow up before our very eyes, from immature kids eating sweets and playing with Matchbox cars, to young adults, catching up with each other, both having their own lives. Tilly Farell-Whitehouse undergoes quite a transformation in terms of look and attitude as the earnest, sweet-natured Izzy, quoting her mom and gran as the ultimate authorities on just about everything. Dominic Thompson is equally credible as the wayward Carl, for whom school is not the best place. Writer Michael Southan leaves it to us to fill in the gaps between the scenes, keeping the exposition of each scene to the minimum, and this works very well. It’s sweetly played, and nicely paced by director Ian Robert Moule. One of the mission statements of Gritty Theatre is to put West Midlands voices, West Midlands stories on the stage. One of the advantages of the local accent is it readily lends bathos to any statement, a gift for any comedy: witness Izzy’s line, “That last chorus of Fame shredded my larynx.” It would be interesting to see how the accent plays in the metropolis.
Painting a Picture for the World
Third and last, we have another two-hander, written by Dave Pitt. The setting is the neat but sparse boudoir of one of your higher-class prostitutes. Kitty (Jessica Melia) admits her latest ‘trick’, Mark (Damien Dickens), a nervous fellow who just wants ‘to talk’. And so begins an exchange of observations rather than bodily fluids, the upshot of which is that money can’t buy you love. Well, we could have told him that from the start. The play does provide something of a window into the world of the working girl but comes across as an interview rather than a conversation. Melia cuts a sympathetic figure and Dickens gets Mark’s awkwardness across, but we know he’s going to go away unsatisfied. The tart with a heart pecks him on the cheek ‘for free’ and he shuffles out. The session peters out and the play ends. Nicely played but with no real pay-off.
All-in-all, a fresh and delightful afternoon of brand-new writing. Perhaps Gritty Theatre have played it safe this time around but I look forward to seeing more of their work.