So what's the excuse for Excuses!? If nothing else, it proves only that mindlessly puerile domestic comedies like See U Next Tuesday are not the exclusive prerogative of the West End, but can also infect a subsidised home of new writing like Soho Theatre, which is hosting the London season of this ACT touring production.
Given that it's, apparently, a hit in Spain, where it's currently to be found in Madrid, perhaps something has been lost in translation. Whatever the case, it's difficult to believe that this witless, coarse-grained affair is the work of two original writers (Joel Joan and Jordi Sanchez), a translator (Matthew Tree), adaptor (Gordon Anderson) and dramaturg (Pep Anton Gomez) - never mind that four accomplished actors and a director (David Grindley) have also lent their talents to bringing it to a semblance of theatrical life.
Set here in a swish Queen's Park apartment (and whoever thought that Queen's Park would become the epitome of cool that it seems to be here, looking for all the world in Tim Shortall's design like it's a transplanted Manhattan loft dwelling?), it introduces us to two couples.
Matthew (Alistair Petrie) is doing what modern men seem to do: busily cooking up a storm in the kitchen (while taking instructions, of course, from mum down the phone). But his wife of 12 years, Olivia (Smack the Pony's Doon Mackichan) has her mind set on other things, and what modern women seem to aspire to: the table she's managed to secure at Nobu. Oops. And Mum's coming to lunch this weekend, too. "I see your mother more than your cock," Olivia waspishly comments.
She's also got some news she wants to share with him: she's pregnant. No sooner has she told him than his best friend Christian (Alexis Conran) and Christian's name-dropping radio presenter partner Suzanna (Robin Weaver) arrive. Cue hilarity and mirth (yeah, right) when Christian regales the staid, faithful Matthew (for whom masturbating - while always finishing off thinking of his wife - is as risqué as it gets) with tales of his unfaithfulness, and (nudge-nudge, wink-wink, my word isn't he a funny one?) he's even stuck his finger up a girl's arse? And, hooray, she was shaved?
Forgive me if I'm not on the floor laughing here, but this sexist nonsense would be offensive if it wasn't so utterly mind-numbing. Meanwhile, the girls are up to no good as well, having it off (not with each other, I hasten to add, that might be a step too far for this modern but not modern enough comedy) in the disabled toilets at Café Nero.
Fast forward - after an unbelievably clumsy scene change - to a year later, and Olivia and Matthew are now parents of a demanding baby, Louis. Christian and Suzanna have split up - she to become a TV star in America, and now dating a 54-year-old television executive; he now with an 18-year-old girl he's just got pregnant, but still pining for Suzanna. All are unbelievably reunited together for another dinner party-from-hell.
The result is a protracted so-called comic rage against women, parenting and responsibility. I laughed once - when the baby caught fire - but otherwise this depressing show is more Ray Cooney than Almodovar but without the gags or observation of either.
- Mark Shenton