Mixed Doubles is billed as ‘An Entertainment on Marriage’ and so it is, specifically marriage grown old and a little bit stale. The evening consists of a series of four short plays, all two-handers, interspersed with four monologues. Each deals with a different troubled marriage, a theme that reminded me of Tolstoy: ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’. The plays collected here explore the nature of unhappy marriages, and the personal and social pressures that couples endure and inflict on one another. Despite this sombre-sounding synopsis, the balance of the evening is comic; although if you are young and romantic you will find less to laugh at than if you’ve been around the block a few times (dragging your partner kicking and screaming behind you).
A team of six actors are mixed and matched to play all the troubled couples of the evening, and the ensemble work hard and turn in solid performances. Dorothy Johnstone does a particularly good job of blending comedy and emotional truth, and Ian Lawson is a crowd favourite for his injured innocence, and comic facial expressions.
Director James Dickson has kept the pace up and technical aspects run smoothly. There is a lot of variety and, while a couple of the plays drag a little, the evening as a whole is nice and pacey, with quick scene changes covered by some well-chosen embittered love songs.
Whilst this show appeals to a specific audience (those shackled by the chains of matrimony) for what it is it does a good job: some fine British writing showcased in a coherently themed evening with strong production and performances.