Found111, London (****)
There’s an unfailing humanity about Owen McCafferty. From his signature Scenes from the Big Picture to the lyrical Absence of Women and Death of a Comedian, he never fails to find the human in the ugly.
In another’s hands, this story of infidelity might have gone badly astray. Echoing a little the Hanif Kureishi/Roger Michell film, A Weekend in Paris in which a middle-aged couple try to rekindle the lost passion of their Parisian honeymoon days, McCafferty’s Unfaithful is a story not just of infidelity but sex as a symptom of something far deeper and more excruciating – mid-life existential crisis masquerading as marital.
Sean Campion’s Tom, a plumber, exhausted by his day, suddenly embarks on a dalliance, picked up in a hotel bar by a young woman. Returning to his tea-lady wife, Joan (the slightly unlikely but magnificently termagent Niam Cusack), full scale verbal warfare breaks out.
The language is brutal, honest, seared to the bone in resentments piled up (by Joan) for years and flung at Tom’s head – a man she says won’t tell her what is going on in him (a typical female criticism it seems) but which by the play’s end has certainly been unlocked. Tom spews out the angst of years and of time passing him by, as indeed Joan. Both are left feeling cheated.
Paralleled with Tom and Joan’s story is younger couple, Peter (Matthew Lewis of the Potter series fame) – now performing `escort’ duties (to Joan it later emerges) and his checkout partner, Tara (Ruta Gedmintas), the very same young woman who picks up Tom. They too are suffering the pangs of lives not felt to be fully lived.
Improbably but so effectively, McCafferty brings together two generations sharing the yearning for that spark that will make them feel fully `alive’.
A daisy-chain then of how sex expresses not just sexual but basic human needs of love and in the case of Tom (the wonderful Campion) and Joan, a rekindling, through pain of their marital partnership,
in Found111’s intense intimacy, Adam Penford’s bed and mirror dominated production elicits laughter, pathos, frissons of shock and ultimately enormous sympathy.
A clever, beautiful, rich, adult play.
A new play by Owen McCafferty
Tom: Sean Campion
Joan: Niamh Cusack
Peter: Matthew Lewis
Tara: Ruta Gedmintas
Director: Adam Penford
Designer: Richard Kent
Lighting Designer: James Whiteside
Composer & Sound Designer: Edward Lewis
Associate Director: Rupert Hands
Presented by Emily Dobbs Productions
First perf of London premiere of Unfaithful, at Found111, Aug 25, 2016