Review: Mouldy Grapes, White Bear Theatre

“I’ve been dipping my spoon in both the chocolate and the vanilla ice-cream”

The thing with open relationships is that everyone needs to be on the same page. The eccentric Roo has a fear of going outside as well as wearing trousers so the agreement has been made that his boyfriend Liam can sleep with other men. But when the person he brings home one particular night turns out to be a woman, the gobby Jess, that openness flicks over into much more complex terrain.

Such is the world of Mouldy Grapes, the assured debut production from new company Break The ‘Verse, a group of recent East 15 graduates. Directed by Dom Riley and written by Monty Jones and Ellie Sparrow and “enhanced through devising”, what surprises most about the play is the way in which it manages to combine its smart study of the fluidity of sexual identities with a classic comedy model, and pull both off successfully.

This it does by never sacrificing character for cheap laughs or thrills. Instead, we feel every bit of the fear that underscores the agoraphobia that traps Jones’ Roo, even as he masks it with his magnificently flamboyant collection of jumpers. We see the frustration at being the sole breadwinner that has pushed Tea Poldvervaart’s Liam to dishonesty. We also get a perspective from the other side with Sparrow’s Jess trying to justify her position as ‘the other woman’. 

And as we explore the point where sexual experimentation bleeds into selfishness, where lies threaten to overwhelm love, the introduction of Adam Willis’ Paul is inspired. The boys’ landlord – he’s a character you suspect Victoria Wood would have been proud to inspire – his presence nudges Mouldy Grapes ever closer to farce territory, hilariously so at times and yet even he is shown to have real heart too, he’s not just a punchline. A sparklingly witty debut from this young company.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 30th September

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