Do you feel funny about feet? If so, the erotic foot-stroking scene at the heart of The Girl in the Yellow Dress may not tickle your fancy; it comes at a crucial mid-way point in the sexy cat-and-mouse game played out by a black French-speaking Congolese student, Pierre, and his white English private tutor, Celia.
Craig Higginson’s play was a delightful discovery on the Edinburgh Festival fringe two years ago; Tim Roseman’s revival (first seen at the Salisbury Playhouse last October), though very good, is less electrifying, and therefore more exposed in its schematic structure.
But as a set of variations on the teacher/pupil relationship with a sexual undertow (check Willy Russell’s Educating Rita and David Mamet’s perennially disturbing Oleanna), it certainly earns its keep, and throws in linguistic foreplay, inter-racial tension and psychological neediness to boot.
And it’s beautifully, if a little too tentatively, played by Clifford Samuel and Fiona Button on a book-lined minimalist set by James Perkins that evokes the Parisian backdrop in wittily displayed shards of photographic rooftops and the Eiffel Tower.
Tip-toeing through minefields of past participles, subjunctives and future conditionals, Samuel and Button find common cause in his eagerness and her prim manner of teasing correction. Pierre is in fact a decent kind of stalker who cooks up an exotic back story as a seduction tactic, while Celia is accumulatively exposed as a kleptomaniac with an overdose of brother love.
Will they make it as a couple, or is their friendship and falling out too much of an abuse of a professional relationship to survive the battering?
There’s a crackle about the play that keeps you guessing even if the five scenes are perhaps over-laboriously flashed up with clever headline projections and plangent soundtrack by Alex Twiselton.
These link passages, however, allow time for the costume changes, and Fiona Button springs freshly before us each time in a natty little hand-picked ensemble, including the yellow dress that started it all in the Luxembourg Gardens.