‘There are so many ways to be in a relationship in 2020’ says Jake Brunger, the playwright of Four Play on the play’s programme interview. Brunger writes about at least two of those ways, exploring and reflecting them in the show. The audience keeps up with the life of two gay couples, who have set different rules for their relationships. The latent theme is always the same: Monogamy. Does it really exist? How to achieve it ?
The narrative is simple and easily recognisable. In fact, the whole language of the show is very simplistic, with direct jokes and a tone of hyper-realism. As much as this simplicity and truthfulness serve the purpose of the audience identifying with the characters throughout most of the show, I have to say that sometimes there seems to be a lack of depth, especially in the acting. This led me to the feeling of watching a light TV series, rather than a theatrical play.
This ordinary feeling that resonates after watching the show also has its beauty. It Is almost as if the audience were permitted to enter in these couples homes and watch small frames of their daily routine. However, there is also a sense that the whole show is building up to some climatic moment that doesn’t happen, maybe that’s the reason of the title …
Mark Mackinnon, who plays Andrew, has probably the biggest journey with his character, giving it vulnerability but also strength, fun and light moments, but also humanizing it. All the other characters seem slightly flat. Nevertheless, I would like to highlight Declan Spaine’s very strong acting, even if the character doesn’t allow significant curves.
It is impossible not to notice that the venue represents a big challenging in staging and lighting up the text. And I believe the choices of the set designer Carrie-Ann Stein serve the show really well. In any case, the set contributes to the hyper-realistic-TV-show kind of feeling, which sometimes goes against some of the staging options. Everything is very realistic except the sexual moments, that are extremely protected or concealed, in a way that breaks the cinematographic realism and goes against the artistic language of everything else on stage.
The show is overall an interesting and funny reflection on monogamy and the challenges of defining boundaries in gay relationships. However, I would state the show can be enjoyed by individuals of all genders and sexualities, since defining rules of relationships is a transversal subject.
Four Play is playing at Above the Stag Theatre until 22 January. For more information and tickets, see Above The Stag’s website.