Torben Betts’ new play, Monogamy is a comedy. Or a tragedy. Both. Neither? Not sure. It is funny, though. I think?
Caroline Mortimer (Janie Dee) is the nation’s second-favourite TV cook, showing viewers her perfect cooking and idyllic life. But, a little predictably, when the cameras tune in on home, the hidden cracks show sharper. Under the veneer of upper-class paradise, her family is fragmented and disconnected: Leo (Jack Archer), her son, returns from Cambridge in emotional, political turmoil; her husband (Patrick Ryecart) has a potential heart condition; she’s been caught by the paparazzi blind drunk after a party, and the new builder is really hot.
Betts’ writing is both witty and direct, dealing with a wide variety of issues in a succinct but knowing way. Though this is at times frustrating, Monogamy is extremely fast-paced and whisks through conflicts and confrontations with impressive speed and confidence. Betts’ does well to set the stage for a classic Miller-esque state of nation, family home drama.
Amanda (Genevieve Gaunt), is an over the top Essex girl PA, who has her life sorted out better than Caroline; Graeme, the builder, is younger, working class; Leo is embroiled in entitled, bourgeoisie conflicts. All ready for a bit of searing social commentary on the family, the ethics of marriage, class in modern London etc. And then, it’s not. About two-thirds of the way through the show, rather than make political use of the building tension of the previous 2 hours, Betts elects to make it into a farce.
Some of the jokes are quite funny: the overly serious 21-year-old millennial condition is pitched well by Archer; Charlie Brooks gives a stand out performance as the third party in the affair, and Ryecart is impressive as the slightly scary, mostly drunk ‘old boy’ of the city. But the rest of it just kind of isn’t great.
What seemed to be a play about class and the public-private dichotomy just turns out to be a rather awkward social farce. And this anti-climactic twist leaves the audience with a rather bitter taste: rather than deal with the questions raised about mental health, aristocratic ignorance, family life, it seems, instead, that it’s all a laugh. After presenting the audience with a truly engaging mish-mash of sexual and social ethics, Monogamy chooses to duck the final obstacle of actually providing any sense of meaning to the whole shambles.
Review by Thomas Froy
Monogamy means sharing your life with one person, but what if you shared your kitchen with 5.6 million?
Caroline Mortimer, the nation’s favourite TV cook, has it all – a sparkling career, a big house in Highgate, a (golf) loving husband, smart kids and the best kitchen money can buy.
But beneath the immaculate furnishings, studio lighting and away from the glare of the ever-present cameras – Caroline must face the looming collision of living a private life in the public eye. What happens when the cameras turn off and the truth comes out?
The Original Theatre Company, Ghost Light Theatre and Eilene Davidson in association with Park Theatre present the World Premiere of
By Torben Betts
Directed by Alastair Whatley
Starring Olivier and Evening Standard Award-winner Janie Dee. With Jack Archer (Quaint Honour), Charlie Brooks (EastEnders), Genevieve Gaunt (The Royals), Patrick Ryecart (Poldark), Jack Sandle (The Tudors).
6 June – 7 July 2018