With Kissing Married Women, Gordon Steel is following a notable Hull Truck tradition by combining the roles of writer and director – and it serves him well. His understated direction preserves the amiability of the evening and gives some coherence to an episodic play that at times threatens to turn into a series of sketches. A potentially irritating mix of cliché, coarse humour and sentimentality is offset by a cheerful determination to please.
The plot is simplicity itself. Daft Dave and Micky work together clearing houses. Dave is an innocent who lives with his mother and has no sex life beyond hopeless lust for Carole in the office and the occasional chat-up line of crushing ineptness. Micky, the married man, apparently worldly, decides that Dave’s salvation is to be cast in the role of gigolo, though he never gets further than the odd fantasy scene. Other revelations of the emptiness of Micky and Dave’s lives humanise the characters to some extent, but nothing changes except that they end up with a different hare-brained scheme.
For much of the play, the writing has a seaside postcard robustness, but Gordon Steel is not the man to resist the obvious. Dave mixes up nymphomaniac with kleptomaniac, the obvious pun on “I’m coming” is trotted out and we know that, as soon as Dave and Micky get into a role play practising seduction techniques, Carole will enter at the most compromising moment and jump to the wrong conclusions. Somewhat happier are the moments of offbeat illogic, like Micky’s riff on his psoriasis when Dave suggests he should take the gigolo role.
It remains a likeable evening of undemanding theatre, not least because Jason Furnival (Micky) and Graham Martin (whose Dave has a touch of Eric Morecambe in his enquiring gormlessness) give complementary performances which never strain for effect, even in their most grotesque moments. Emma Ashton convinces as Carole, the most grounded character in the play, as well as hopping in and out of costumes, wigs and accents as assorted, mostly fantasy figures.
Kissing Married Women, off on a 54-date tour after Hull, should travel well, with Graham Kirk’s functional set – each act a room being cleared by Micky and Dave, conveniently containing the objects required for that act’s fantasy – easily adaptable to spaces from Edwardian theatres to school halls. Whether the play can look forward to any further future life is more doubtful.