Catching Monogamy at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre at the end of a brief UK tour before it has its official première at London’s Park Theatre next month, this Original Theatre Company, Ghost Light Theatre and Eilene Davidson production of Torben Betts’ black comedy stars Janie Dee as the 50+ Caroline, the “nation’s second favourite domestic goddess” (Nigella being first?), though her home life is anything but a domestic paradise and her heavy drinking is illustrative of a woman who, after being married for twenty five years has far from found personal fulfilment.
Her closet homosexual son Leo (Jack Archer) has just graduated with flying colours from Cambridge University yet he resents both his parents for not giving him enough of their time or attention. Even when he attempts to confide in his mother about his recent heartbreak she is more interested in talking about herself and the embarrassing photos the Daily Mail are planning to publish online of her falling legless out of a taxi.
Set entirely in Caroline’s kitchen, with a series of comings and goings including a television crew filming, Genevieve Gaunt gives an amusing performance as Amanda’s cocaine snorting PA, equally broken after her mother’s death from MS, while Patrick Ryecart is equally watchable as her plummy, cheating, golfing, sun-burnt husband. But he isn’t the only one needing forgiveness, as revealed when the builder Graeme (Jack Sandle)’s wife Sally (Charlie Brooks) pays an unexpected evening call, confronting Amanda about her passionate text messages to her husband.
Sally’s revelation of mental health issues and that she’s just stopped her medication, coupled with Caroline’s menacingly large knife on the kitchen work top throughout leads us to expect some violence, although it’s a predictable rather than a suspenseful plot and a grey rather than a black comedy which fails to receive more than a lukewarm response from the half-empty auditorium during the matinee I was present.
The cast, especially the natural and charismatic Dee, do their utmost to entertain us even when chopping vegetables or pouring another large glass of Sauvignon Blanc, but ultimately this play doesn’t have a lot to offer the educated middle class, nor enough energy in the direction from Original Theatre Artistic Director Alastair Whatley or characterisation from Betts to make us care about the conclusion to Caroline’s rather mundane predicament. So much so that it would have been better named ‘Monotony’. The production team are going to have to do something dramatic in order to turn this around for the London launch, or vegetables won’t be the only thing getting the chop.
Monogamy at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre on 19 May 2018. The show continues at Park Theatre London from 6 June – 7 July 2018. Production images by Simon Annand. For more information and tickets please visit the website.