Where: Outer London
29 March 2010 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews The particular confection that is Relax, written by Robert Farrar and directed by Phil Setren, could perhaps best be described as a gay farce. Unusually for a farce it is slow-paced and has no real element of danger, but it builds preposterous situation upon preposterous situation in determined style, and contains one big surprise towards the end.
The plot revolves around the proprietor of a B&B near Weston-super-Mare who pretends to have a mentally ill identical twin brother in order to seduce conveniently single and sexually frustrated young men – although when rumbled in this ploy he hardly seems to bat an eyelid.
He allows a corpulent, middle-aged nutcase to undertake a training period as a new ‘houseboy’ and finds himself in competition for the favours of the aforesaid young men. A manic girl, (
Nadia Kamil) arrives in search of somebody, and then almost immediately forgets about that and departs with a stranger she finds drugged out of his brain and wearing a dress. At such moments one has to put one's suspension of disbelief into overdrive, so clunkingly heavy-handed is the way in which the plot is manipulated to suit the comic purpose. There is much fun to be had, however, when the proprietor, Sandy, ingratiaties himself with, firstly, a gawky hedgehog enthusiast on his way to a brass-rubbing session ( Dominic Cazenove) and then a passing RAC man in need of a little homely comfort ( Mark Leeson).
The whole play would fall apart in a froth of implausibility were it not for the impeccably timed performance of
James Holmes as Sandy and his twin brother Jimmy. He delivers such lines as “I’m houseproud, but I’m not anal” and “I wouldn’t normally drink anything as strong as this, but I’m celebrating my double-glazing” with a straight-faced, laconic drawl that brings a welcome touch of throwaway subtlety to the proceedings. Subtlety may sound like an odd quality to require of a farce, but Tony Bluto as the trainee houseboy gives such a bizarre, overdone performance that he appears to be trying to steal the show every time he utters a word. What this demonstrates is that high camp and low comedy can only work as a theatrical combination if a vestige of reality is maintained throughout.
This is a curious hotch-potch of an evening that tries too hard to please. At the moments when it ‘relaxes’, though, it is delightfully and refreshingly funny.
- Giles Cole
Subscribe to our free newsletter
Featured Editor's Picks
: The economic impact of Arts & Culture in the UK Infographic When Culture Secretary Maria Miller called for the arts to make their "economic case" for subsidy, t... Plays Cast: Harry Potter star in Southwark Moment, more for Branagh's Macbeth Bonnie Wright, best known for playing Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films, will make her stage d... Brief Encounter with ... The Kite Runner's Ben Turner Ben Turner stars in the stage version of the bestselling book The Kite Runner, which runs at Liverpo... Titus Andronicus (RSC) This latest production of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, to borrow from football punditry, is a p... : Britain's outdoor theatres Take Five With half-term approaching, the weather (hopefully) set to improve for the bank holiday weekend and ... West End Live returns to Trafalgar Square next month West End Live, a weekend of free entertainment from top London shows, will return to Trafalgar Squar... : 'I carry the ghost of Gregory Peck on my shoulders' Robert Sean Leonard Actor Robert Sean Leonard is currently playing Atticus Finch in Timothy Sheader's production of To K... To Kill A Mockingbird Twenty years ago, a young Robert Sean Leonard appeared on the London stage with Alan Alda in... X Factor musical titled I Can't Sing!, opens Palladium March 2014 The forthcoming X Factor musical will be called I Can't Sing! The Musical and will premiere at the L... Donmar stages Nick Payne premiere, Wesker's Roots & Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus The Donmar Warehouse has announced its new season, which features the premiere of Nick Payne's new p...