Random Accomplice and Birds of Paradise ‘s co-production is one that has already raised eyebrows: a bawdy romp on the logistics of getting one’s leg over.
That writer and director Johnny McKnight teams up with co-director Robert Softley Gale makes a lot of sense. Both share a love of exploring emotional truth through the risqué. McKnight has subverted pantomime for this generation: now he rescues the humble sex comedy from 70s stereotypes of weedy oversexed men in bri-nylon, busty bimbos and beige Y-fronts.
With so many flings being instigated through the use of technology these days, the new dating landscape has shifted considerably, and is now more instantaneous—and, potentially, more dangerous. Laura (Amy Conachan) and Jake (James Young) are looking for casual sex and so meet through a (strictly non-branded) mobile phone app. Jake is invited over to Laura’s.
But when the sports-gear-wearing laddish type that is Jake arrives, it is clear that he is not what Laura expects: he’s crass, inarticulate and too skinny—especially when he realises his date (a gorgeous brunette with a twinkle in her eye and fantastic breasts) is disabled. ”When ye said legless in yer text, ah didnae think ye meant…actually nae legs!” he blusters, to her amusement and disgust. Both are disappointed, after the ‘packaging’ promised so much.
A bad taste, mannerless comedy, Wendy Hoose skewers the expectations of both characters and audience alike. With ripe dialogue puerile and stuffed with pathos, the double standards of dating are revealed in a piece which is on the surface hilarious, but ultimately becomes achingly sad. Conachan is wonderful—it is hard to believe this is her stage debut—imbuing Laura with sass and vulnerabilty. ”Porn and Lara Croft?” she splutters at one stage to Jake, when he speaks of his interests. ”What are you—fourteen?!” Young too is excellent, with swagger and almost vaudevillian physicality that is a joy to witness.
The play is fantastically well-staged: Neil Haynes’ intimate set is the titular ‘Wendy Hoose’, the specially-adapted house for Laura, a girlie vision of red with fairy lights, betraying her intelligent defiance. The audio describer, brilliantly voiced completely deadpan by Random Accomplice’s Artistic Director Julie Brown (a la Scarlett Johanssen’s conscience-ridden computer in Her) gets some juicy one-liners too—hilarious references to ”lady gardens” in one scene, and amusing disgust at what she her career has become- ”I went to drama school, you know!” Emoticons explode everywhere on the screen above the stage, including underwear when Jake strips down to his pants, and cute pink bunnies to denote use of the Rampant Rabbit sex toy.
There is only one inconsistency. Jake’s character is not entirely convincing, peppering his outbursts with references to Germaine Greer and post-feminism , and his final speech seems too emotionally aware in ways he is otherwise not; but that is a small quibble in a moving, witty exploration of human fallibilty that is also jaw-droppingly filthy.