In our no-holds-barred comedy craze right now taste levels seem to be set in the gutter, or perhaps “clunge” height - the crudely blunt jokes of hit TV series The Inbetweeners a case in point.
That’s in total contrast to the clever social observation of One Foot in the Grave - so you wouldn’t necessarily expect that show’s star Richard Wilson, aka grumpy Victor Meldrew, to throw himself into a play which whips out sex-soaked puns and four-letter witticisms as often as a windmilling willy on a lads’ night out.
Except, he has. The British small screen favourite directs the new play by Royal Court regular DC Moore, Straight, which hits the Bush theatre fresh from a run at Sheffield’s Crucible. Based on the 2009 American motion picture Humpday, where two best buddies decide to make an ‘art’ film-cum-amateur porno which they’ll star in, this Brit version for the stage is seriously funny. Often trading on the fashion for fanny gags, the dialogue can be quick and sharp as a vodka shot – but it’s usually tempered by a human side which is sometimes lacking in modern comedy.
Young married couple Lewis (Henry Pettigrew) and Morgan (Jessica Ransom)’s life in their cramped flat - designer James Cotterill gives the young professionals compact, Ikea-esque furnishings - is interrupted one night by the unceremonious arrival of Lewis’ best mate from university: Waldorf. Philip McGinley excels as a cocky, unwittingly offensive far-out traveller back in England after a seven year-long gap year, immediately pulling Lewis right back into lads’ banter and a late night drinking session.
Bonding again once more, the two (ostensibly straight) boys drunkenly pledge to sleep together in an ‘arty’ flick – and in the morning, they find it unnervingly appealing.
Being completely honest, the open ending of DC Moore’s new play could have felt wildly unsatisfying. The play lightly explores what it’s like to wonder about those siren-sounding gay dreams a straight man might have, almost too subtly. Perhaps that’s because the focus is firmly on the funny social awkwardness of sleeping with your best friend – which admittedly gives us a screamingly funny scene from Pettigrew and McGinley in their extravagantly expensive hotel room.
For all that, the fantastic comic awareness of Wilson who brings out nuanced, top rate performances from the fine cast (not forgetting Jenny Rainsford as Waldorf’s weed-smoking, supermarket hook-up), more than makes up the difference.