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Review: Unfaithful (Found111)

Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis returns to the stage in Owen McCafferty's dark comedy

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Tom and Joan have been married thirty years, which is probably ten years too long. At least that's Joan's initial reaction upon hearing her husband has been unfaithful. Ten years ago she could have changed. Ten years ago she was in her forties and still had a slight chance of making a new life. Now she's in her fifties and his infidelity has left her high and dry. It's this reaction to betrayal, regret as opposed to sadness, that Owen McCafferty's dark comedy attempts to address.

Joan - magnificently pitched in a thoroughly compelling performance from Niamh Cusack - is a dinner lady. She hates the way her husband grunts when he puts on his socks and despises his breathing when he sleeps, often contemplating smothering him if she could only muster the energy. Tom - in an equally commanding performance from Sean Campion - is a plumber in the throes of an existential crisis. He stares at sandwiches in a supermarket, unable to make a choice; when he watches old films he can't help but think most of the actors are now dead.

So when Tara (Ruta Gedmintas), a Pretty Young Girl, approaches him in a hotel bar and offers him a fuck, his response is more about pride than sexual gratification. Here, apparently, is a girl half his age who considers him to be a man living life. He's no longer a lonely plumber, downing pints to clear his throat of plaster, he's the object of attention from someone of the opposite sex that isn't his wife.

In response, Joan hires male escort Peter (Matthew Lewis), who she pays for sex but ultimately uses to vent thirty years of built up anger, launching into a spectacularly caustic tirade. She's out of her depth, struggling to swim in this newfound stream of emotions. Is she sad or disappointed? Nostalgic or jealous? Does she want revenge or to make up for lost time?

Cusack and Campion's wealth of experience, both in life and on stage, is blindingly obvious alongside the performances of their younger counterparts. Lewis and Gedmintas are slightly let down by McCafferty's script which casts off their characters as mere catalysts to the main game, but with that aside, they struggle to match the brilliance of their seniors.

Adam Penford's tight and fluid direction allows for an expeditious romp as the scenes roll into each other and the four lives cross, equally enabled by Richard Kent's minimalist design of the suitably claustrophobic Found111 space, creating a voyeuristic feel to the piece - particularly uncomfortable in Tom's recount of his misdeed, which is more suiting of an EL James novel than a West End stage.

It's an interesting, if slightly contrived, look at relationships from McCafferty, with an acting masterclass from Cusack and Campion - for us and the other actors.

Unfaithful runs at Found111 until 8 October.

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