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Split Infinitive (Camden Fringe) presents A Caravan Named Desire

This multilayered play has quite a broad appeal and manages to introduce complete newcomers to the world of theatre without leaving seasoned theatregoers feeling bored or patronised. In explaining what is going on, Alexander Millington has everyone in the room on the same page – and just as there’s the slightest hint of him talking for too long, his wife Helen draws him back, telling him to get on with the show itself, a doubly legitimate instruction from someone both spouse and director.

A Caravan Named Desire
A Caravan Named Desire

The fourth wall is deconstructed (in more ways than one) pretty much as soon as the show begins, and while at surface level the show is about Alexander’s findings as a writer who wanted to carry out research into the sex worker industry. His wife appears, reluctantly, on book, ostensibly because Alexander’s co-star doesn’t turn up, which adds an awkward but nonetheless curious dimension to proceedings. Alexander then becomes ‘Gary’, and Helen becomes ‘Crystal’, the former a client of the latter. ‘Wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ wouldn’t be sufficient for an entire play, so Gary invents personal issues that lead to repeat visits over several months, to the point where Crystal, whilst happy to take his money, eventually asks why he feels the need to (ahem) keep coming.

Why didn’t you just tell the truth?” Helen asks, snapping out of character, and the storyline is further interrupted by frequent discussions between Helen and Alexander about what exactly Crystal and Gary got up to, and what was said, and why. What begins as a comfortable, if somewhat hedonistic account of what is best described as ‘The Adventures of Gary’, gradually becomes an exploration of marital trust and whether boundaries have been merely stretched or utterly violated.

Leaving aside whether a series of appointments with just one sex worker gives a ‘researcher’, inverted commas mine, a rounded view of the oldest profession (for the record, I don’t think it does), Gary gets considerably engrossed in his work, becoming, in effect, a compulsive liar. This in itself helps to maintain interest in a show where the lines between fact and make-believe are increasingly blurry. This isn’t a show that maximises the shock factor – for example, there’s a brief moment of partial nudity, under cover of darkness, which is also (at least for me) one of the show’s funniest moments, because Helen, on book, can’t see what her next lines are.

The humour is often perceptive, particularly when it leaves Alexander remorseful after Helen vehemently objects to a set of actions that turned out to be truthful. At only sixty minutes long, it feels even shorter – always a good sign – and the production does well to cover as much ground as it does without feeling hurried. The audience was even invited to see for themselves whether Helen’s reading of the script was accurate, with playtexts on sale in the theatre foyer. A thoughtful and intriguing piece of theatre, there’s a considerable amount of set, props and tech cues for a fringe show. Perfectly paced and always fascinating stuff.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

A Caravan Named Desire is a two-hander, performed by married couple Alexander and Helen Millington who are trying to produce a play depicting the relationship between a sex worker and their client. However, as Helen becomes aware of just how autobiographical Alexander’s play is, things don’t exactly go to plan.

Discreet, professional, clean and tested. For a good time, come to the caravan and meet Krystal. Your desire for hire.

A Caravan Named Desire is a one-hour show exploring desire and sex through interactive performances. A Caravan Named Desire is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

SPLIT INFINITIVE (CAMDEN FRINGE) presents
A CARAVAN
NAMED DESIRE
Tue 08 Aug – Sat 12 Aug 2023
https://cptheatre.co.uk/

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