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Wendy Hoose (Soho Theatre)

Scottish theatre companies Birds of Paradise and Random Accomplice bring their no-holds-barred comedy to London

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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James Young and Amy Conachan in Wendy Hoose

Disability is not the opposite of sexuality, but society so often refuses to reconcile the two. Wendy Hoose, playing at Soho Theatre as part of A Nation's Theatre, is a welcome corrective to that: Glaswegian gal Laura is living proof that having no legs doesn't stop anyone from wanting to get their leg over.

In Johnny McKnight's two-hander, she's tucked up in bed at home late on a Saturday night, waiting for her Tinder hook-up to turn up in a taxi from town. Jake, played by James Young with a jittery coyness that belies the sexual swagger of his online persona, arrives awkwardly, whips his kit off on command and sidles into bed. His mouth finds hers. His hands wander south, down her side to her hips, down to her... He springs off the bed like he's discovered a cattle prod beneath the sheets.

What follows is a mealy-mouthed back and forth as Jake tries to justify his reaction, knowing it to be irrational, hurtful and deeply un-PC. Amy Conachan's straight-talking Laura has heard it all before: all the excuses and apologies, all the clumsy jokes, the assumptions, the repulsion, the fear. Besides, it's not like she didn't warn him. It's not her fault he took it as banter. "I like short women," he texted. Just not too short, apparently - not 2'8".

Wendy Hoose digs deeper than disability though. Jake's a Paisley lad, with an accent so thick it can give off the wrong impression, leaving him labelled a Ned and left well alone. Laura's a mum and that impacts on her sex life in its own way. We're not always the people others assume us to be. If we drop our defences and take the time to get to know one another, it's possible we might like what we find.

At heart, Wendy Hoose is a comedy of manners - a bit too genteel sometimes, even when it tries (a bit too hard) to talk dirty. Wright places too much stock in the comic mileage of vibrators and cum faces, believing both to be inherently funny in their own right. They're not. Not really. Wright and his co-director Robert Softley Gale can't always smooth out the contrivances of the script.

They do, however, turn access into an asset, integrating expressive emojis into the surtitles and a snarky, eye-rolling tone to the audio-description. There's meaning beneath both: the sense that what we say and what we do don't always match up and that our words can't be detached from our body language, nor our thoughts from the bodies that contain them. Sex takes the two.

Wendy Hoose runs at the Soho Theatre until 7 May 2016.


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