Theatre review: Sex Lives of Others
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review: Sex Lives of Others at Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33), reviewed by David Pollock
Rising London playwright Keely Winstone’s words aren’t well served by one of the most awful spaces on the Fringe, a portable building inflicted with high seats, a cramped stage and poor sight lines. Really, her play deserves more, for this four-hander is sharp and well-observed, a generational comedy with a difference which convincingly represents the voices of young and old in their most intimate and exposed moments.
It begins with meandering, teenage-standard versions of rock staples from the Stones and Hendrix played by overgrown child James, middle-class father of three. The kids are with the grandparents and James is under orders from his plummy wife Hillary (Hils) to paint the fence and give her sex at least once before the weekend’s out.
Next door live young couple Sonny and Kerry (“Sonny and Cher,” as Hils has it), who just “row and rut” according to James, his eyes misty as he recalls the traditions of early courting. Next door, the junior pairing squabble about their ex-partners and collude in Sonny’s Boggle obsession, pausing to fake sex in order to wind their neighbours up. It’s a play long on the minutiae of being in a cohabiting relationship, from the early stages to the post-children years, and the believable, gently amusing milieu Winstone and director Hannah Eidinow build in the early stages becomes somehow more convincing in that neither of these couples are on the verge of meltdown. Instead it’s a warm and believable tribute to being in a steady relationship, with all the conjoined habits and momentary dichotomies that brings.
It might be true that this quality also saps something of the high drama from proceedings, and the piece does feel somewhat lightweight in a way that’s not disagreeable.
Its slow build is given intense and memorable release, though – quite literally – when Winstone finally manoeuvres both couples into having sex.
All four actors each play a very large part in the show’s success, their parts demanding bold, unselfish and decidedly unashamed comic performances, which they deliver beautifully.
MORE INFO: Sex Lives of Others at Pleasance Courtyard
Originally published in The Scotsman