Ayckbourn fans will love this comedy of manners from Durham University’s Fourth Wall Theatre. Matt and Katherine decide to spice up their troubled relationship by inviting another couple to join in their sex life. Or that’s the plan anyway. Things don’t quite work out as expected when Amelia and Elliot turn up without appearing to have the faintest idea what they’ve been invited to and so begins a hilariously awkward dinner party with a giant orgy-shaped elephant in the room.
An apt, contemporary comedy that draws out the humour of our most undignified moments and finds hilarity in the stupid decisions we make in the pursuit of happiness.
With spot on comic timing, the actors create a bubbling undercurrent of suspense which becomes almost unbearable. Hemmed into a very tight corner, the action is largely static but they cope well by relying on making the most of precise gestures, tense facial expressions and well-paced witty punchlines.
Matt and Katherine are typically privileged Y-generation kids preoccupied by Jamie Oliver recipes, iTunes playlists and laying the table correctly. The piece imagines what would happen if a young, middle class couple were to find themselves hideously out of their depth, trying to have an orgy. The results are uproariously funny and we are kept guessing for an answer to the final outcome up until the very last minute. Posh and conceited Amelia gets progressively more drunk as the terrible evening continues and each time she has an outburst we think this is the time when the truth will be revealed. Each time it isn’t, the tension cranks up a notch and Katherine’s disappointment at still being in the dark is mirrored by the audience.
The behaviour of Amelia and Elliot becomes intensely interesting as we try to guess what they’re thinking. We’ve never seen them on their own together so can’t be certain we’ve got it right. Elliot is brilliantly smarmy and flirtatious but is he just having a bit of fun with Katherine? Amelia seems totally bored by the whole evening and starts talking about insurance.
The ridiculous neuroses of the characters and their total (very British) inability to express their thoughts are expertly portrayed by the cast whose performances are brilliantly observed and impeccably naturalistic. The resulting farcical misunderstanding that occurs when a policeman turns up is very well done, his self-righteous sincerity not broken for a moment as, mistaking him for a stripper, drunk Amelia writhes all over him.
Swing by Around 8 is an apt, contemporary comedy that draws out the humour of our most undignified moments and finds hilarity in the stupid decisions we make in the pursuit of happiness.