The title reveals a little of the new approach. Live Bed Show. This is going to be somewhat different to what we're used to. We're ushered into a rather natty little black box studio space. Welcome to the Theatre Royal, York, 2001.
All right, so a studio space is nothing new. But in York it smacks of revolution. The Royal - one of the region's most important producing theatres - has taken plenty of risks over the years. But there's something all too conservative about the main venue. The towering proscenium arch, the gold leaf, the dangling chandelier; the main auditorium is about upholding tradition. Even when, as an example, you sit down to watch Patrick Marber's Closer. It feels safe, comfortable, like a night at a "show".
Back in the studio, we can't find comfortable, squeaky red velvet chairs, just backless (but cushioned) seating. We're just six feet away from actors Lucy Chalkley (Maria) and John Kirk (Cash), we can see director Tim Welton sat on the other side, we can almost reach out, touch and pocket a pair of knickers from the Tracey Emin-style set.
Live Bed Show is the second in the opening trio of shows in the studio, all directed by first-time director Welton. Welton lost his virginity with John Godber's Happy Jack, and will follow Live Bed Show with Disco Pigs. All three shows are two-handers. The risk the Royal is taking is in attempting to reach a new audience. The programming for the new space will not be to everyone's fancy. But each to their own.
Back in the bedroom, Maria and Cash are discovering all the perils, pitfalls, pratfalls and embarrassments of sex. Will they, won't they, the audience ponder as wisecrack follows wisecrack. No need to tell you that Athur Smith's comedy is extremely funny. The performances, too, are confident, sharp, to the point and satisfactory. Like a well oiled, experienced lover.
Let's hope audiences make the most of the studio and fill the place on a regular basis. Let's also see more risky productions, a move away from the expected and a walk into the unknown.
And the final verdict on Live Bed Show in particular? It's a messy bed, perhaps, but a production that leaves an impressive mark on the sheets.
- reviewed by Dave Windass