SAMANTHA CHEH reviews ‘Contact.Com’ showing at the Park Theatre.
‘Contact.Com’ tries to do many things and be a something-for-everyone sort of show. In some cases, it succeeds; in others, it flounders, looking for purpose. The play tells the tale of a middle-aged couple, Matthew and Naomi, as they engage a younger couple, Ryan and Kelly, in a night of no-strings-attached pleasure. What subsequently occurs is a blurring of physical and emotional boundaries that results in the inevitable revelation of secrets and hidden motives.
The initial premise of the plot – people seeking freedom via kinkier sex – is dropped the moment the two variegated couples shut the bedroom doors: what could have explored ideas of sexuality and taboo, or the role of the Internet in shaping ideas about sex and love, instead descends into a tableau of Matthew’s and Naomi’s marital unhappiness.
The play’s wasted potential is further enforced by its crude, and in some places, ridiculous script. Contact.com becomes a class commentary, as both couples’ initial excitement of breaking free from their class boundaries is replaced by social anxiety. Ostensibly, the follows the discomforting relationship between middle-upper class psychiatrist Matthew, and struggling entrepreneur Ryan. Yet even on this premise the play fails to fulfil it’s possibilities, and this social theme is also left un-satisfyingly explored.
Despite this, Tanya Franks gives a commendable portrayal of the long-suffering Naomi, wearing the burden of constant disappointment well, and easily lurches into the role of clingy cougar. Charlie Brooks also impresses as Kelly, the younger of the two women, seeming like a carryover from her ‘EastEnders’ days, her sunny self-assuredness giving way to reveal her fragility intermittently.
Disappointingly however, there is little interaction between these two interesting female characters; instead they are pigeonholed into the conflict between their male counterparts. This means that the audience is forced to focus on pettier conflict between Matthew (Jason Durr) and Ryan (Ralph Aiken). Yet, even that conflict is left unexplored; the play continually hints at conflict with which is never engages.
The plentitude of space the theatre offers is used well, and the easy movements of the actors flowing from dining table to ‘lap-dance-chair’ makes for enjoyable viewing. The set is beautifully minimalistic, reflecting the vacuum of affection in which Naomi and Matthew live. The static living room mimics the sterility of their relationship; it’s IKEA-catalogue-perfect. Bright white lights highlight the awkwardness between all the actors in the initial act, slowly warming with sexual tension and heightening conflict.
Despite the play’s commendable individual elements, a sense of dissatisfaction is predominant when few of these are brought together. The play’s denouement was disappointing and results in the kind of ambiguous ending that annoys rather than tantalises.
‘Contact.Com’ is playing at the Park Theatre until the 14 February 2015. Tickets are available at concession for North London residents and students. To find out more click here. (https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/contactcom)
Images credited to the Park Theatre.