This is a most welcome revival of a poignant comic play from the brilliant oeuvre of Robert Farquhar, a contemporary writer of enormous sensitivity and wit. The New Red Lion is a terrific new venue, and serves this... er... love-story properly, giving the audience the sense of being right there in the (seedy, vulgar) guesthouse bedroom with the characters.
Eddie and Crystal, played with verve and nuance by Alan Drake and Charlotte Mckinney, are an odd-couple, both lonely enough to spend a romantic weekend with a virtual stranger in a rainy seaside town. Crystal is all chav-glamour and sexual boldness, Eddie wears a dreadful moustache and lives with his mum, but every time we think we’ve nailed these two as types, a new illuminating facet of them is revealed. In their intense (though sometimes desperately banal) interaction, it is as if every relationship between a man and a woman is somehow reflected.
The jokes come thick and fast (the attempt to act out Crystal’s sexual fantasy is uproarious) but the sadness of both characters is what pierces the heart. There are echoes of Mike Leigh’s grotesque-but-real characters here, though Farquhar, the actors, and director, Jason Lawson achieve an effect more satisfyingly subtle than Leigh’s over-caricatured comic creations.