Soho Theatre breaks its recent pattern of showcasing debuting playwrights to offer the third play of Maggie Nevill, The Shagaround, presented in a co-production between Southampton's Nuffield Theatre and Croydon's Warehouse. It is also - despite a late and jarring change of tone at the end - a brightly conventional and engagingly commercial comedy, not quite as challenging as other new plays at this address, but nevertheless cheerfully (if not tearfully) entertaining.

Not every play can push the boat out, and the tide that seems to have brought this one is a somewhat diluted call to feminist arms, in which a group of five female friends - out to celebrate New Year's Eve in a nightclub - end up taking the ex-boyfriend of one of them hostage in the ladies loo, to call in the debt of £50 that he owes, but also taking their symbolic revenge on the men who have constantly let them down. Needless to say, in the sticky - and occasionally a bit icky - proceedings that follow, it turns out that they've let each other down, too - not to mention their less than honourable dealings themselves with men.

This is Sex and the City, relocated from the sleek streets, bars and bedrooms of Manhattan to the rather more mundane setting of a nightclub toilet. And, like that glossy American sitcom, it is likewise performed by a brassily terrific ensemble.

Though the characterisation isn't nearly as pithy or witty, these actresses - and their solitary male victim, selflessly played by Matthew Cullum in a role that has him locked in a cubicle for most of the play, with only occasional sightings of his head peeking up from beneath the floor partition - bring their roles to pungent theatrical life. As played by the fine Elizabeth Berrington, Luisa Bradshaw-White, Veronica Quilligan, Diane Parish and Toyah Willcox, they are enjoyable company.

- Mark Shenton


The Shagaround continues at the Soho Theatre to 18 August and then visits Brighton's Theatre Royal from 3 to 8 September 2001.