“Wanderlust” at the Royal Court

Nick Payne’s great new play Wanderlust is about love and sex – the absence and surfeit of both, the differences between them, and where the two overlap. The Royal Court has spotted great new writing yet again. This play is very funny and deeply moving.

Tim and his school friend Michelle begin to experiment with sex as a favour (unrequited love for him makes her oblige his anxious curiosity). James Musgrave and Isabella Laughland are instantly believable as the confused teens. The great thing here is that, unlike most 15 year olds on stage these days, they aren’t violent or mentally ill. They are touchingly real as a result. We really hope they don’t develop the same problems as their elders.

Tim’s father Alan is more desperate for sex than his teenage son. Forced abstinence has resulted in a strain that Stuart McQuarrie performs with endearing charm. Even overweight middle-aged men need a sex life (trust me on this) but, given the chance to explore his darker side, he can’t even remember to take his socks off.

Alan’s attachment to hosiery might explain his wife’s lack of interest in the bedroom, but Joy turns out to be aptly named. Dutifully exploring her sexuality to save her marriage results in a transformation Pippa Hayward achieves quite miraculously. From being, “tired, worn out and uptight” she becomes a radiant, sexy woman hoping to start again.

Payne has a refreshing take on the glamour that surrounds sex and youth. We don’t have to put up with kitchen sinks or the fabulously wealthy: his milieu is the middle classes. The humour isn’t gentle and can be painfully embarrassing, but this writing has a great deal of heart. Yet the play avoids sentimentality. While a tear comes easily to the eye, the emotions are complex and engaging. This is a tender tale of socks and sex that is not to be missed.

Until 9 October 2010

www.royalcourttheatre.com

Photo by Sheila Burnett

Written 18 September 2010

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