[The following contains spoilers.]
“Casual Encounters” is written and directed by Andy Moseley and it has arrived at the Fringe courtesy of NoLogo Productions. It is the sort of play that they do very well at the Surgeons’ Hall: an unshowy domestic comedy, nicely compact and looking good up close in one of this venue’s side rooms. The Rogers (David Scott-Lucas and Joanna Pope), a flagging married couple, decide to take up “wife swapping.” They will try to recover their interest in each other by having sex with other people. As soon as you look at this play, you can tell that sex is the very last thing that is ever going to happen. When the other couple (Sean Meyer and Catherine Houston Eyers) arrive in the Rogers’ suburban home, they are not “refined” and Mrs Rogers pulls faces like Hyacinth Bucket conversing with a dustman.
The way that the story works out is very funny, but the story itself is sad. The Rogers do not have the customary good luck of innocents abroad and they are made fools of, with their wife-swapping partners turning out to be armed robbers. The Rogers are dressed in each other’s clothes (so that they will be too embarrassed to shout for help) and handcuffed to a coffee table. The robbers make some wise remarks about their victims’ rather forlorn sexual greed, before scarpering with the loot.
So what have we learnt from this story? Mostly, it seems, that the Rogers are not cut out for sex, or at least for exciting sex. From their perspective there is no such thing as “casual sex,” and their ordeal only confirms what they probably, in their hearts, already knew: that you should remain squeamish and not take risks. Perhaps they would be quite content with celibacy, but even in this they are compromised. They sense that sex is the tax you have to pay if you are in a relationship and that it is the done thing to pay up.
The characters’ philosophising is heavy going at times, but it is always smart. The lady robber smirks over the irony that the Rogers’ nosy neighbours are today just as anonymous as the strangers who they have dialled up for sex. Why, therefore, don’t they simply have sex with their neighbours? This logic just torments the Rogers, rather than really helping them.
The daring and risk-taking criminals end up in the slammer. The policewoman (Lucia Coward) who arrives to rescue the Rogers recommends that they swap wife-swapping for something safer, like community Zumba dancing. “Casual Encounters” might be a stylish and funny play, but it is hopelessly unsexy.