WhatsOnStage Logo
Review Round-Ups

Review Round-up: Thumbs up for Golaszewski's Stranger

WhatsOnStage logo
Stefan Golaszewski's new play Sex with a Stranger opened this week (6 February, previews from 1 February 2012) at Trafalgar Studios 2 where it plays a limited West End season until 25 February 2012.

Tackling the temptations of a married man during his night on the town, Adam needs an opportunity to get away from his dull relationship with wife Ruth for an evening. He takes a night off to celebrate a friend’s birthday, partying into the early hours.

While at a club, Adam meets Grace who then invites him to her flat. Sex with a Stranger follows the journey to their one-night stand and gives further insight into the life of an unfaithful husband.

The role of Adam is played by Russell Tovey, who also starred in Golaszewski's popular BBC3 sitcom Him & Her. Tovey is joined in the cast by Jaime Winstone (Grace) and Naomi Sheldon (Ruth).

Michael Coveney

“Skilfully constructed, painful-to-watch but very funny three-hander in the smaller of the Trafalgar Studio … The spare, minimal writing makes Harold Pinter look like Ronald Firbank. Some scenes are ten seconds long. Tentative chat-up is contrasted, like bright pins, with the wary notes of deceit as Adam wangles his night out from Naomi Sheldon’s doe-eyed, devoted Ruth … Golaszewski… made waves two or three years ago with his white-suited solo performances at the Traverse and the Bush … Phillip Breen has served up this play with real flair and deftness … The acting of all three performers is unbeatable, perfectly pitched and nuanced in the tiny space, and while Tovey and Winstone are brilliant at falling guiltily and nervously into their tryst, Sheldon’s projection of misplaced trust and innate goodness becomes almost heart-breaking as she settles down on the sofa, betrayed and bookish.”

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard

Russell Tovey has won an army of fans as the werewolf George in Being Human and Jaime Winstone is a sparky performer who's made a strong impression in the TV zombie drama Dead Set … In this new play… they combine arrestingly … Tovey does a nice job of conveying both Adam's geniality and the frustration that makes him stray … As Grace, Winstone is adept at suggesting the nuances of embarrassment; her timing is spot-on. And Naomi Sheldon perfectly evokes Ruth's vulnerability … There's a risk that a piece so concerned with the ordinary could lapse into flatness. But Golaszewki's writing has teeth; although the material is slight, it's eerily well observed and shrewdly woven together … Phillip Breen's intimate production is absorbing and the committed performances make this a satisfying, unsettling experience.”

Paul Taylor

"Golaszewski trains his extraordinary flair on playing around with the tragicomic possibilities of a story chopped into cheekily hyper-abrupt black-out sketches that are presented in calculatedly unchronological order and set against sequences that are an agony of real-time protractedness … Golaszewski has a devastating ear for the tiny bizarreries of this near-phatic communion, plus the uncondescending ability to keep the characters juicy. You never feel that they are being baked to death with derision, as they bark their shins in the dark against a too-low bed … Naomi Shelden wrings your heart and irritates you to bits as the girlfriend who, by having been too suspicious, has put herself in a weak position and can't object when Adam claims that he is going out for a mate's twenty-sixth birthday. As she helps him get ready, in a banked-down fever of foreboding, you feel that their lives have quietly horrifying DIY Neil LaBute play. A dazzling achievement."

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph

"Golaszewski… memorably captures the humiliations of lust and the painful inequality of love … Golaszewski’s movingly captures the moment when shared affection decays into suspicion, frustration, dishonesty and grief … Tovey powerfully captures the duplicity and unease of the philandering Adam, Jaime Winstone poignantly suggests the vulnerability and anxiety that underlie Grace’s brassy Essex Girl persona, and Naomi Sheldon pierces the heart as the woman left alone at home who comes to learn that her love is unreturned … The play is artistically subtle, with its clever, non-linear time scheme, and the director Phillip Breen and his outstanding cast skilfully lay bare the deeper feelings that underlie the apparently banal surface of the dialogue. There is a sense of ice at this play’s heart, and one leaves it with a shiver."

Dominic Maxwell
The Times

Sex with a Stranger… is dominated by the banality, frustration and pre-coital rigamarole that most… stories skate over … Golaszewski’s smart structure and sharp eye and Phillip Breen’s beautifully acted production ensure that those boring bits are never actually boring … Winstone convinces completely as the dolled-up Grace… Tovey… deliberately keeps personality out of Adam, whose occasional bursts of anger suggest someone more frustrated than he lets on. And frustration is the key note of his scenes with Ruth … As he sits distractedly in their flat, bluffing his way repeatedly round why Ruth isn’t invited on his big Saturday-night drinking session, Sex with a Stranger makes its point and then makes its point again. But then that’s its point … This is an artful exercise that asks us to join the dots for ourselves. It keeps buzzing in the brain long after its final moment of disconnected domesticity.”

Michael Billington

"Two things give this cryptic, 80-minute three-hander by Stefan Golaszewski… an edge over its rivals: its air of quiet melancholy and its unusual empathy with the play's insecure female victim … The structure is also unorthodox … While the play may offer no great revelations, the dialogue is fresh and sharp, and the sadness palpable … Phillip Breen's atmospheric production stands out … Two hot young actors give the piece a bit of glam. Russell Tovey as the guiltily treacherous Adam and Jaime Winstone as the giggling, nervous Grace are both very good. But it is Naomi Sheldon as Ruth who really captures the attention: she conveys all the anxiety, fear and loneliness of a woman who instinctively knows…that she is about to be betrayed. All one can say is that Golaszewski, for a male dramatist, shows a rare understanding of female distress."

- Amy Sheppard & McKenzie Kramer


Tagged in this Story