As I sat on a non-moving, severely delayed Victoria Line service, contemplating my lateness and panicking, I began to consider what my expectations of Contact.com were. Perceptually I was right on the line between concerned and intrigued. Contact.com’s blurb on the Park’s website features two advertisements: a couple in their mid-40s and another in their mid- to late 20s seeking a night of debauchery, a freedom from their lives together without the need for deception. The blurb gives away nothing in the way of substance nor any real clues as to where the couples go from there. Would I be spending the best part of two hours covering my eyes? Would I have been able to take my mum?
We enter into the swanky North London living room of Naomi (Tanya Franks), the MD of a charity, and her psychiatrist husband Matthew (Jason Durr) and almost immediately the dynamic is revealed, the balance of control between them and the conflict that is caused by the situation as a whole. As they await the arrival of their guests you get the immediate and very human impression that this is not going to be a cut and dried one night scenario; that their relationship is in jeopardy on both sides of the coin.
When Ryan (Ralph Aiken), a cockney jack of all trades and then buxom, body aware , Kelly (Charlie Brooks) arrive, that which is immediately obvious is the class difference between the couples and it is instantaneously striking. Encouraging the audience to query what each couple can get from the other, beyond the sex, there are more educational and financial rewards to be had.
As such, Contact.com darkly explores the psychology of human nature and how it alters and suddenly switches according to age, gender and a whole host of experience that culminates itself together as one person attempts to make his way through life as best he can. The ways and means by which people depend on other people, friend or stranger, just to get by. And how this journey is conflicted by differing ideals, limited resources and the misbalance between wants and needs.
Brooks flipped seamlessly between manipulative, over-sexed and comedic. Aiken was philosophical and sympathetic. The stand-out performances came from Durr and Franks who managed the undercurrent of their characters’ relationship triumphantly. Durr’s Matthew was a control-ridden man, losing control in favour of desire as his wife struggles to facilitate despite her desperation to get to the other side of the turmoil.
The ending is as intriguing as the beginning and intended to be the height of cliff-hanging ambiguity, but left me empty and in need of resolution. In terms of the sexual content my concern was well placed: I could not have taken my mum.
Contact.com is playing Park Theatre until 14 February. For more information and tickets, see the Park Theatre website. Photo by Kim Hardy.