BWW Review: SEXY LAUNDRY, Tabard Theatre
It isn't a surprise to read in the programme that Michele Riml's two-hander was first performed in 2002 - unless you're thinking even further back, all the way to the 1980s and Terry and June. Though there's an update or two on conversational references (Jennifer Lawrence for, who exactly? Julia Roberts would be my guess), there's nothing about social media, nothing about online dating, not even a mobile phone for a furtive text or two.
But that's not really what this show is about - maybe the 15+ recommendation on the playbill should be 50+, as it's firmly focused on the demographic of parents whose love lives have gone stale, whose work is being made irrelevant by young thrusters and whose futures look like more of the same unless they do something about it.
Alice (a bubbly Felicity Duncan) has cajoled Henry (a, yes, terryscottish Nick Raggett) into the trendiest new hotel in town (it's so chi chi that it provides microfibre towels!) in an attempt to lure him away from his comfy chair, his glass of red and the news. She wants more; he doesn't; and they talk, they try out a few suggestions from "Sex For Dummies" (oh c'mon, you remember those?) and never once log on to the internet which (I'm led to believe) can provide literally hundreds of examples of how to spice up one's bedroom gymnastics.
Of course, just because we're covering old ground here and stuck in something of a technological, social and sexual timewarp, does not make the issues any less real. The middle class trajectory of lives comprising kids building careers while one's own stalls, of a sense of time running out on ageing dreams, of longing for the days when it was oneself all lean and beautiful - well that trifecta of anxiety inducers are just as present as ever they were. (Though, it has to be said, over the last decade, such disappointments have often curdled into a gammonish mass anger not alluded to on stage).
There are plenty of laughs, if more provoked by the thin smile of recognition rather than the belly laugh of farce, and Duncan and Raggett play off each other well, wholly credible as two people far too used to each other's company.
That said, you do wait for something that justifies premiering this play in London at the awkward age of 16 - perhaps something of the uneasy truthtelling of its near contemporary novel, Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections - but it never comes. What's left is something akin to a sitcom pilot from a generation or so past - pleasing in its own way, but lacking the bite comedy needs if it is to land consistently.
Photo by Andreas Grieger