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Slippery When Wet at Barons Court Theatre

Having never worked in a supermarket I have no idea what the normal custom is with regards to personal relationships in the workplace. Based on this play, they are at least tolerated. Leanne Devlin plays an Irish actor who did well at drama school and secured the sort of acting roles she wanted after graduating. But then, for whatever reason, despite putting herself forward for miscellaneous auditions, the acting work dried up, and she finds herself back in her hometown, having moved back in with her mother, in a minimum wage job.

Slippery When WetShe falls in love with someone who works in the same store as she does, and what in some respects is a well-trodden path of ‘does he love me?’ / ‘does he not?’ is also an engaging, if emotionally charged, account of what happened and how she went about trying to move things along with her colleague, whom she will only refer to as ‘Love’. Her journey is easy to follow and raises more than a few laughs from the audience along the way, whether in cringeworthy moments which result in her feeling utterly mortified, or in times of severe self-doubt, where she knowingly succumbs to analysis paralysis, overthinking her next moves instead of taking the plunge.

Taking the plunge is quite literally what a friend suggests she does to take her mind off the relationship for a while (or an hour), and she finds swimming in the sea to be a calming and cathartic experience, a world away from being in a body waxing salon where (a little too graphically, perhaps), post-treatment, her lady bits, in her view at least, look like they have “been in a house fire”. That she was in the salon at all was part of a charm offensive to impress her apparent lover – he appeared, to her, to be flirtatious but the show suffers a little from only having a single perspective, and it would have been useful to have heard a second opinion. This does not, I hasten to add, necessarily need to be the perspective of the man she is flirting with, or trying to flirt with, given there are female friends both at work and elsewhere with whom our protagonist is in regular contact.

That said, there is much in this single perspective to enjoy and to be familiar with, not quite sure how to interpret body language and non-verbal gestures, and even what is spoken. It’s a very modern love story, complete with impatience at not receiving an instantaneous reply to a direct message. There is just about enough detail given about his looks (beauty being in the eye of the beholder and all that) and personality to see why she wants to pursue her ‘Love’, but she’s also trying to be cautious, which often has hilarious results.

Some observations on society as a whole, and the expectations placed on young women like Devlin’s character (whose name is eventually revealed at the very end of the play), are made in a humorous and therefore agreeable manner. Finally, the few on-stage props are used inventively in this witty and perceptive production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Slippery When Wet follows the journey of an aspiring actor who, having returned to her hometown to work in a supermarket, is forced to face her complicated relationship with her hometown when she falls madly in love with a colleague. We follow this bawdy young woman through drunken nights, embarrassing encounters and ‘bad feminism’, as she debates abandoning her theatrical city dreams for Love (with a capital L).

Slippery When Wet, written and performed by Leanne Devlin (Ireland), and directed by Emma Copland (UK), premiers at Barons Court Theatre as part of their 2023 Summer Season. Drawing on personal experiences of small towns, big dreams and being a bad feminist, Slippery When Wet, mocks the multiplicity of expectations we dump on our young people and tensions between the fantasies we sell them and the realities of life.

Slippery When Wet
Producer Emma Copland
Performance Dates Tuesday 22 August-Saturday 2 September @ 7:30pm & 9.30pm
Press Night N/A [Press welcome at all performances]
Barons Court Theatre, Below the Curtain’s Up Pub, 28a Comeragh Road, London W14 9HR

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