How very long ago 1973 seems – even to those of us glutting our taste for theatre at the time. Two and Two Make Sex is the archetypical British bedroom farce of the period, now revived by the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch.
It was written by Richard Harris and Leslie Darbon; this new staging is by Matt Devitt and takes a long time to pick up the necessary pace. Somehow we're given too long to think about the characters and farce has a dangerous tendency to dissipate once the people who inhabit its situations start becoming real human-beings with problems.
It looks splendid, with the young couple – Ellie Rose Boswell as Jane and Callum Hughes as Nick – inhabiting their rickety bedsitter wearing the mini-skirt and flared jeans which define the period, while the rest of the stage is occupied by Clare (Claire Storey) and George (Sean Needham)'s comfortable suburban living-room. Claire Lyth is the designer.
Only with the eruption of Jack, George's old rugby-watching buddy and, as we learn, Jane's estranged father, does it all lighten and become real fun. Jack is played by Simon Jessop who delivers the split-second timing which is usually a feature of the ensemble work by the theatre's resident "cut to the chase..." company but here seems somehow to have been mislaid.
Storey's Clare, as she worries about what her agony aunt friend Ruth (Georgina Field) describes as George's "virility crisis" (aka male menopause), suggests the frustration beginning to seep out of a marriage gone stale. Field is suitably astringent as the woman surviving in a man's world with a nice blend of claw and velvet.
I never felt that Needham was comfortable as George, the middle-aged man propositioning a girl the same age as his Asian-trekking son. Hughes as he shifts from layabout to pretend psychiatrist ("I didn't know you even had a suit" comments Jane at one stage) is very funny. Boswell has the measure of Jane, the girl who knows what she wants and (eventually) how to get it.
Two and Two Make Sex runs at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch until 29 March.