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Unfaithful (Edinburgh Fringe)

Two intertwining stories of betrayal make for a witty and engrossing drama

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Overly familiar? Owen Whitelaw as Peter and Cara Kelly as Joan

The familiar premise of a middle-aged marriage rocked by an accusation of infidelity is given a modern twist in this sharp four-hander from Owen McCafferty.

When 50-something plumber Tom (Benny Young) is propositioned by sexually-charged 20-something Tara (Amiera Darwish) in a hotel bar, it sparks a sequence of accusations and lies that leads his frustrated wife Joan (Cara Kelly) to seek revenge in the same hotel.

Tara, who initially seems to be a prostitute, in fact turns out to be more closely linked to Joan than might initially seem apparent. Her first encounter with Tom sets the bare, explicit tone of the dialogue as she brazenly offers herself: "do you want to fuck me?"

Director Rachel O'Riordan has re-ordered the scenes (based on the playtext), switching the opening scene to the end, which means that Tara's own situation remains hidden until much later. The advantage is this gives full rein to Tom and Joan's relationship, which is tested further when Joan enlists the services of male escort Peter (Owen Whitelaw) to exact her revenge.

Joan and Peter's encounter in the hotel room may seem a familiar one, but McCafferty ensures Peter eludes rent boy stereotypes by asserting he has chosen to sell his body as a preference to working in a call centre (and having worked in a call centre, I'd say as a choice that's difficult to argue with).

"One of the stand-outs of this year's Traverse programme"

I won't reveal any more about the intertwining of the relationships but I will say that McCafferty's tender conclusion comes as something of a surprise. Whilst not reinventing the dramatic wheel here, he touchingly - and humorously - questions the role of love in relationships worn bare by financial demands and a lack of career opportunity.

Although the later scenes don't fully live up to the promise of the fizzing early exchanges, the cast - particularly Cara Kelly as Joan, a dinner lady who serves up no end of wry observations - ensure this counts as one of the stand-outs of this year's Traverse programme.

Unfaithful continues at the Traverse Theatre until 24 August