“Can I have an adult for “Fourplay” please?” Due to my embarrassed mumbling I initially end up with a ticket for a later play, “Fault Lines.”
“Fourplay” was written by the Australian writer Jane Bodie and it was first performed in 2007. The play has been now transplanted to the Space on the Mile by Lady Muck productions, a company of Edinburgh drama graduates. This is the European premier of “Fourplay” and it is worth catching some of Bodie’s writing in action. We may suppose this play’s bored twentysomethings to be stock characters from nineties TV sitcoms, but the unspectacular storyline actually harbours some powerful and accomplished writing. Lady Muck also does more than merely showcase local talent: the four performances are all equally strong, the characters are likeable and presented with great clarity.
The pun in the title is loose-fitting, for the subject of this play is love rather than sex. Tom and Alice (Alan McKenzie and Chelsea Gilroy) are sheltering in a relationship which provides only stability and companionship. Like two travellers who are tired of each other’s company, one heads north and the other south. Tom is a stage actor and Alice a care assistant: the former has a raunchy fling with his co-star Natasha (Roisin Diamond), who is so direct and sensual that she is practically French; whilst the latter turns to her colleague Jack (Martyn Forbes) who is, in complete contrast to Natasha, awkward and secretive. Whereas Natasha openly makes a pass at Tom, Jack commences to furtively stalk Alice.
The action often appears to wander about unpredictably but it is in retrospect tightly structured. There is some good observational writing about preparing for a play, and this is only tastefully self-referential in the end. Those of us who watch a lot of Fringe theatre may feel that we are being treated to a rare peep under the bonnet. I liked the running joke during the rehearsal scenes in which Tom repeatedly forgets his lines after his co-star commands him to be silent. The cast are clearly playing with fire here and the prompt must have been well briefed. Yet in this and elsewhere with the care home material, the play largely sacrifices easy laughs for tenderer ironies.
We may wonder whether “Fourplay” is merely an exercise in style. Bodie seems to accept that change is inevitable in relationships and we accordingly witness several love lives undergoing an amoral, almost mechanical realignment. These characters’ hurt is frequently rather distant. On the other hand, there is always a little more to the comedy than innocence and this production successfully captures the sadness which remains once love has faded.