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115

Is this really normal? All my life I have had the feeling that I am somehow different, even at times distinctly inferior, to other men. Now I know why – the scales have fallen from my eyes. Every other man secretly keeps a woman in his flat, chained to a radiator.

Theatre, Apparently’s new play is currently showing at the Pleasance Zoo. The title is nine-tenths of the play. Steven (Alex Wells-King) has at some point in his past kidnapped a young woman (Monica Forero) and she is still imprisoned in his flat. The prospective Stockholm syndrome falls short of melodrama since this pair turn out to get on famously. The moments of tension between the two, the sharp-eyed schemes behind each other’s backs, are less noticeable than in most marriages.

Quite strangely, you can never quite catch this play being offensive. I can imagine reading the script and finding the humour to be rather questionable. There have been several instances of such crimes really happening, most recently that of the Ohio burgher, Ariel Castro, who was convicted in 2013 of keeping three women as sex slaves for ten years. In this respect, “I Keep a Woman” cheerfully submits to a trial of strength. It lays out its hideous premise like a bed of coals but then walks determinedly over it with a blithe, perfectly-composed smile on its face. Although we can see the chain, and the radiator, the play has soon charmed us into unseeing them. Steven and the woman appear to be having so much fun that, on an interpretative level, it will surely not do for us to make a fuss.

The two performers are enjoyable company and springy on their feet. What is so endearing here is the rarity of encountering an intelligent piece of theatre which is quite so happily laddish. The humour is all bantz and it masters the crucial trick of being both witless and witty at the same time. When “I Keep a Girl” is at last no longer about nothing at all, it is amiably minded to depict the anxieties of online dating. It is a shame that the play stops where it does. The curtains are drawn on Stephen’s flat at the beginning of the evening and so we cannot peep in on him anymore. We are no doubt missing out on a night of high farce and riotous passions.

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