A gay couple in search of a catalyst to reignite their sex life, enlist a Sex Worker to role-play one of their secret fantasies. The play’s setting is a dark, kinky dungeon full of sexual paraphernalia. About five minutes into the production and in the middle of the escapade and role-playing, the Sex Worker slips and falls unconscious, and the couple who are caged and tied down, are forced to address reality. As uncomfortable, awkward, hilarious, and humbling as that reality may be.
This predictable plot falls prey to plenty of stereotypes and expectations that leave one hungry for something richer than cheap laughs. The intrigue and novelty prove effective only at first and then, at the end of the play, when a fourth and fifth character breathe fresh life into the tired stage action (or inaction). Despite the writing feeling repetitive at points, the comedy resonated with the audience.
Jake Maskall’s Tom is grounded, level-headed, and easy to like because he is full of reason while David Ames’s Tim lacks so much of it. The pair balance each other well on stage but from the outside, it’s hard to believe these personalities would have lasted ten years together being so different. As fit sex worker Karl, Matt Lapinskas brings a depth, earnest humor, and nuance to the piece in a much appreciated manner. Stephanie Siadatan and Nick Sampson both shine in their smaller roles towards the end of the production.
While pacing varies throughout Andrew Beckett’s staging, the problems with this production are largely due to playwright Ian Hallard’s script, which was apparently and coincidentally, written during a very different kind of lockdown.
Horse Play runs at Riverside Studios, London through 24 September.
Review: Matthew Pierce Photo Danny Kaan