Wednesday 13 June 2018

Monogamy @ The Park Theatre

Monogamy @ The Park Theatre

What a beautiful kitchen! James Perkins' set design is like an Ikea showroom: a spacious island unit, bushy herbs decorating the wall, and plenty of space to entertain. That's to be expected for the kitchen of a celebrity TV chef, but it's just a facade. By the end, it's left utterly ruined.

Written by Torben Betts, Monogamy is a satirical if clichéd look at the middle class family unit. Here are three people individually successful, but utterly incapable of actually communicating with one another. There's humour in the writing, but it's a bleak view of family life.

Like all family dramas, the plot revolves around food and sex. Olivier Award nominated Janie Dee stars in the lead role of Caroline, a TV chef so celebrated that some images of her drunk in the tabloids are unlikely to dent her career. Her real secret, though, is that she's been sleeping with the builder doing up the home, cheating on her womanising husband Mike (Patrick Ryecart) who drunkenly boasts of his golfing prowess. Their son Leo (Jack Archer) has recently graduated from Cambridge - the reason for their family dinner - but is terrified of coming out to his parents and remains distraught that his partner cheated on him.

Betts seems to be questioning whether the whole notion of monogamy is a fallacy. Can anyone remain loyal to one partner? But is lying and cheating with multiple partners really the answer? Either way, depressingly, none of these characters are truly happy. Not even an underdeveloped omnipotent God can help them.

There's a class war here, too, between the crumbling middle class family and the vulnerability of the working class characters who serve them. Builder Graeme (Jack Sandle) and his wife Sally (Charlie Brooks) have a failing marriage; Caroline's PA Amanda (a very amusing Genevieve Gaunt) feels lost after the recent death of her mother. Who is deserving of our sympathy? Where should our loyalty lie?

The problem is that all Betts' characters are borderline abhorrent and irredeemable. And as the drama rises to bloody, apocalyptic levels (laughable for its stormy cliché more than the script), it all erupts into an over-acted and relentless soap opera. There is entertainment to be found in the farcical plot, but these are ugly characters stuck in a very nice kitchen.


Watch: Monogamy runs at the Park Theatre until 7th July.

Monogamy @ The Park Theatre

Monogamy @ The Park Theatre
Photos: Helen Maybanks