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Plus One …?

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Flatmates Jay (Ste Myott), Terri (Sarah Adams) and Dave (Peter Carruthers) realise that they are unable to attract partners when none of them is able to secure a date for a wedding to which they are all invited. Their efforts to find a ‘Plus One’ for the wedding leads to changes in their relationships and an unwanted revelation about Jay’s parentage.

Plus One …? by writer Mike Heath examines whether we need another person to be complete. The audience doesn’t have to work this out from watching the play as Heath simply has Terri state his theme as part of a speech. Being fed pabulum in this way isn’t bad once in awhile but Heath goes from blandly tasteless to offensively crude with little in-between to savour.

As a director Heath has a similar lack of faith in his cast. Rather than trust their abilities to convey his themes he makes them clear in the script. As a result the characters border on stereotypes making it hard to relate to them but very easy to guess the twists in the story.

Rather than examine the question of whether we need a partner to be complete Heath assumes the answer is ‘yes’ and concentrates on pairing off his cast with predictable results. The characters of Terri and Dave fall into the category of opposites attract/ a friend who’s bickering conceals a mutual attraction. To reveal this does not really spoil the story, as the way their relationship will develop is obvious from an early stage.

The potential humour in some sequences of the play is lost due to Heath’s tendency towards crudity rather than wit. An explanation of the true meaning of terms used in the personal ads and a deconstruction of ‘ Brief Encounter ‘ both rely on coarse language to get laughs.

The actors do their best to flesh out the sketchy characters but are given little help from the writer/director. Myott tries to give Jay a wistful, romantic air but the character still comes across as self-pitying. Carruthers manages to suggest that Dave is capable of maturing.

Other characters are less successfully realised. Jay’s mother Belle and his cousin Tim are written as broad comic characters. The actors portray them in the same manner resulting in two-dimensional people who serve no purpose other than to get laughs. Chris Barlow interprets Tim as an unpleasant Hooray Henry and Jeni Howarth-Williams makes Belle seem like a resident of the Chatsworth estate.

Having laid the groundwork in the first act the second concentrates on delivering the laughs. The extent to which this is successful depends upon the audience’s tolerance for slapstick humour.

Plus One ...? tells a familiar tale with no real insight to distinguish it from other, more successful efforts.

- Dave Cunningham

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