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BWW Review: PUNTS, Theatre503

Like other young men, Jack, a 25-year-old with a learning disability, has needs and desires, and his parents don't want him to feel left out of significant life experiences, so they decide to hire a prostitute to arrange their son's first sexual encounter. Julia will slip into the cracks of a marriage on the verge of an invisible crisis, and in the end she will do a lot more than just help Jack.

Written by Sarah Page, Punts doesn't tiptoe around sex and sexuality. Its blissful honesty and touching nature are brought out by director Jessica Edwards, who marshals a devastatingly brilliant cast. Dan Saggars' use of neon lights gives the show a dynamic and modern touch, and ingeniously alludes to unshown acts.

Christopher Adams, Clare Lawrence-Moody, Graham O'Mara, and Florence Roberts (Jack, Antonia, Alastair, and Julia respectively) are a finely tuned machine. By having Page's characters orbiting around each other in the presence of Julia, Edwards creates a visual universe in the stripped-back set by Amelia Jane Hankin.

Adams' moving and delightfully earnest performance as Jack finds a match with each and every of the cast. O'Mara is imposing as his barrister father, but unafraid to show his character's faults, especially where Jack is involved. He and Lawrence-Moody are outstandingly real, and from their roleplaying to their hints at the small chips in their relationship, the actors give plenty of insights into a marriage held together by the love for their child and the care that stems from a lifetime spent in each other's company.

Florence Roberts is simply magnificent in the role of the sophisticated, gorgeous Julia. She dominates the space, sympathetically revealing the humanity of her sex worker character. Her caring manner is juxtaposed with an exceptionally perceptive nature, raising her above a stereotype. The intense chemistry she shares with O'Mara is a joy to witness: from a well-choreographed tango in their first scene together, to their last touching moments spent on stage.

Page's script is clever and never banal: when clichés are brought up, it's only so she can wittily challenge and eviscerate them. She uses an entertaining and absorbing story to open up a candid reflection on what it means to become a man, and explores prostitution, parenting, consent, and female empowerment, while always keeping the plot centre stage.

Unapologetically realistic, drawing as it does inspiration from interviews with sex workers, Page and the whole company succeed in creating a lasting piece of socially involved theatre led by a strong and moving story.

Punts runs at Theatre503 until 24 June

Photo credit: Claudia Marinaro

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