Review: Four Play

4 star rating
Ample naturally-arising comedy peppers this well-observed, cleverly-written play that examines a long term relationship in need of revitalisation.
Four Play at the Above The Stag Theatre

Image courtesy Above The Stag Theatre



Closes here: Saturday 22 February 2020

Author:
Jake Brunger

Director:
Matthew Iliffe

Cast:

Keeran Blessie - Pete

Ashley Byam - Rafe

Marc MacKinnon - Andrew

Declan Spaine - Michael


Synopsis


A comic play about sex and commitment in the 21st century.


Rafe and Pete have hit a rut.


After seven-and-a-half blissfully happy years, their lack of sexual experience is driving them apart.


So when they proposition mutual friend Michael to help out with their problems - knowing full well that Michael has his own partner Andrew - what seems like a simple solution quickly spirals out of control.


ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Friday 17 January 2020
Review star rating image

'The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry' (or 'The best-laid schemes o' Mice an' Men Gang aft agley' as Robert Burns put it).


So goes the well-known proverb - a warning of undesirable or even catastrophic consequences for the best worked-out ideas or proposals.


In Jake Brunger's cleverly-written, and at times very funny play, two of the principal characters seem to brush aside the possibility of potential disaster in hatching a plan to revitalise their relationship by drawing on the assistance of a mutual friend.


Or, rather than reinvigorating their relationship, maybe they recognise they have arrived at an inevitable crossroads and see an opportunity that might effect some kind of resolution - for better or worse.


The essential concept for Four Play is a simple one which bears the hallmarks of having widespread or possibly universal applicability in the realms of long-term relationships.

Ashley Byam as Rafe in Four Play at the Above The Stag Theatre

Ashley Byam (Rafe) - photo by PBGSTUDIOS


Pete (Keeran Blessie) and Rafe (Ashley Byam) have been together for 7 years - or, more precisely, 7 and a half years as Rafe insists in his introductory soliloquy which lays out the territory the play explores and the partners' plans.


Having met at university, they claim to have had no sexual experience other than with each other and have come to the conclusion that they need the assistance of another man to provide insights into possibilities in the sexual activity department.


Having researched potential authorities on this subject, they have settled on Michael (played by Declan Spaine) who they understand to be in an open relationship with his partner Andrew, and who seems to have the necessary experience to enlighten them.


As with many open relationships, rules are required for the scheme to take effect.


Michael is to have sex with Pete and Rafe individually and he is not to tell his partner.


Now that set-up probably already has you predicting just what the outcome might be and, without giving too much away, the piece doesn't spring many surprises except for the reaction of Andrew (admirably played by Marc MacKinnon).

Cast of Four Play at the Above The Stag Theatre

(From left) Marc MacKinnon (Andrew), Ashley Byam (Rafe), Keeran Blessie (Pete), Declan Spaine (Michael) - photo by PBGSTUDIOS


Without stage directions in the script, director Matthew Iliffe has made an impressively well-judged stab at interpreting the piece, allowing both the playwright's intentions and the able characterisations to shine through with aplomb.


And the enterprise finds authenticity in Carrie-Ann Stein's neat and effective design that could be any modern kitchen in rental land, and capably doubles for other settings such as bars.


Four Play has wider implications of course since it is an examination of how life in a long term relationship can become repetitively stale and asking (as in the song composed by Michel Legrand, with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman) 'How do you keep the music playing?'.


Jake Brunger's sharp and genuine writing allows comic moments to arise naturally without feeling forced, laboured or contrived, and the play as a whole is written in a non-judgemental, observational style that presents issues and offers rationale for behaviours without taking sides or preaching.


Overall, Four play is a well-balanced, highly absorbing comedy drama that has all the right ingredients in near perfect quantities.


And, even tinged with sadness, that makes for a wholly entertaining show as well as providing thought-provoking matters that are pertinent across the spectrum of relationships.


Well-worth catching.



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