Four Play review
Posted on 6 Sep 2018

Four Play – Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham

With BBC1 currently airing a prime-time drama about a couple sleeping with other people in an attempt to rekindle the flame of romance, this latest Old Joint Stock production from director Tracey Street could hardly have been better timed.

Jake Brunger’s comic-drama was quite a hit on its release in London a couple of years ago (when the cast included TV Bodyguard star Richard Madden), and with good reason, as it struck a variety of nerves as a frank and funny reflection on sex and commitment in the 21st century.

The drama centres on long-term couple Rafe and Pete, whose lack of sexual experience – and contrasting attitudes towards it – looks set to drive them apart. The drastic situation calls for a drastic measure, so they ask mutual friend (and Grindr-using manslut) Michael to help out by sleeping with each of them. Their clumsy approach to the proposition provides some of the humour in the play’s opening hour, but a bleak cloud hangs over the proceedings, and you know this apparently simple solution will never end well… not least because Michael has his own partner Andrew.

The latter comes to the fore in the play’s second half, confronting not only those who have betrayed and lied to him, but more importantly their – and by extension our – attitudes to love, sex, monogamy and commitment.

It’s powerful stuff with a universal resonance regardless of sexual orientation, and while some of the innuendo (the play’s title instantly rang alarm bells) and the yuppie-like dinner party setting of the confrontation scene felt a bit out of step in 2018, the uniformly sterling performances – particularly from Conor Nolan (Rafe) and Tye Harris (Andrew), who had the bulk of the dialogue – and in-your-face staging made for an intimate evening’s entertainment in more ways than one.

Four Stars

Steve Adams

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