(Not a) Review: Contact U.K., Soho Theatre

“We need have some boundaries…”

This isn’t a review of this show, Contact U.K., as it was a table reading of this new play by Michael Kingsbury which took place at the Studio on the top floor of the Soho Theatre, but more of a note for myself for completeness to my record of theatre-going and also, hopefully, the smugness I can have when/if this show makes it to the stage: I can say that I filled out a rather amusing feedback form and helped shape its progress!

I can’t deny that the cast involved played a big part in me wanting to attend to: Tara Fitzgerald is just wonderful full stop, Michelle Ryan is proving herself to be quite the versatile actress and Rupert Graves has a special place in my period-drama loving heart (hello Maurice!). Iain McKee made up the fourth cast member, recognisable to those of you who’ve seen Channel 4’s The Promise and we even got some bonus John Sessions as the narrator which was a pleasant surprise.

The play is a comedy, bordering on a black comedy, about a well-to-do Islington couple, an industrial psychiatrist Matthew and his marketing consultant wife Naomi, Graves and Fitzgerald, who have placed a advert for some cheeky wife-swapping fun. The couple they’ve agreed to meet are the younger Ryan and Kelly, from somewhere on the Walworth Road, worlds apart in outlook, prospects and aspirations, but the one evening of sexual antics that they all sign up for risks becoming something more as the agreement they made gives way to the sexual and economic needs and desires that are awoken in these two very different couples.

My own feedback was that it was well done as two halves but more could be done to feed through some of the suggested darkness in the first half, making it more of a black comedy from the outset and pushing it more into the realms of psychological drama towards the end, but that would change the nature of the play and that isn’t necessarily what they’re looking for! One conceit is to have Matthew be one of the architects of the ‘Big Society’ thinking which lends it an extreme modishness which I suspect they might be better getting rid of as who knows how this policy will roll out over the coming years of this Coalition administration as it is fearsomely unpopular (I should add that I have strong connections through work to this so am not unbiased in this) and allying itself so closely to something when it doesn’t actually need to might hamper its perception by the general public.

But as ever with these things, it is a work-in-progress, it was nice to be a part of this process at this stage and a fabulous opportunity to see some great actors working in a slightly different context . I really do look forward though, to the day in which I actually get to see one of these things further down the line, so be able to see how a show can really develop throughout its lifetime and I can say ‘I was there when…’

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