On at Theatre 503 (London) until March 12th
Written by: Jake Brunger
Directed by: Jonathan O’Boyle
Designed by: Cecilia Carey
Four Play takes a farcical look at contemporary relationships, and in particular open relationships. When Rafe (Cai Brigden) and Pete (Michael Gilbert) come to admit that they are struggling with the seven (and a half) year itch, there’s a lot to lose; they’re settled, live in a nice apartment and have clocked a fair few miles together. However in sensing that a little something extra is needed to breathe some life back in to their relationship, they go in search of a third party, a mutual friend Michael (who is in an open relationship with his partner Andrew). At times hilarious, Four Play is a frank exploration of monogamy, non-monogamy and all of the grey areas in between.
Brunger has written four sharp and distinctive characters, and the dynamic between the actors is highly enjoyable to watch. From Rafe’s edginess to Michael’s confidence, Andrew’s vulnerability and Pete’s quiet controlling nature, there’s plenty for the actors to play with. The show launches straight in to the heart of the action with a speech from Rafe, who nervously, and hilariously, approaches Michael (Peter Hannah) with their proposition, which hooks us in to the story from the early moments.
It’s a rollercoaster of a tale, and at several points becomes apparent that not all was quite as we thought. As the story unfolds it is clear that some are more happy than others with the arrangements, particularly Andrew (played by Michael James) who delivers some contrasting and wistful moments in amongst the farce. There are several moments where we wince at the fact that the only outcome for this situation is likely to be catastrophic, which of course, it is, all culminating at a highly uncomfortable dinner party.
As well as looking at monogamy, relationships and commitment, Four Play also examines heteronormative structures and their function within gay relationships, some characters seemingly more keen to pursue ‘heterosexual norms’, than others. For these characters and in this story open relationships don’t seem to suit – but Brunger successfully poses a range of questions that address monogamy in contemporary relationships.
Celia Carey’s contemporary urban design, transports us easily from an city apartment to a modern bar, and in the scene transitions creates the feel of a club and feels ideal for the piece.
If you’re looking for laughs, farse and relationship drama, this is definitely the play for you, though also prepare to be moved as the play progresses and the dramatic consequences unfold.