Review: Role Play at the Blue Orange Theatre

I’ve known for a long time how clever Darren Haywood is – his marvellous performance in one of my own plays saved it from disaster, while his own writing for the stage is superb as I know well having seen a fair bit of it over the years. But this time he’s done something extra-special, even for him.

Because here he’s written a beautiful little play, a two-hander, which is that rarest of things, an entirely current comedy drama, deceptively simple, which is actually the prototype for a superb sitcom. On TV it could be packing in the millions of watchers for a decade to come. It really doesn’t get any cleverer than that.

Role Play

Role Play

Lorren Winwood, last seen by me in Tracey’s Street’s magical production of Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing is marvellous as Ellie, the feisty girl-about-town who brings her street-smart attitude home to her partner Matt who hasn’t realised she needs things pepping up a bit in the bedroom department of their lives.

Alex Arksen is great too as Matt, a bloke limited by his sheer blokiness who agrees to try giving tangible evidence of his feelings a go while dressed up in not-quite uniforms, but who gets deeper in the mire with every under- or over-stated gesture he hopes is in the right direction.

This is a story with a heart, kind, thoughtful and realistic about recognisable people who believe the articles they read online and in magazines about how they should be having it all. This delightful production works especially well because of the marvellous tangibility of the actors who show that these are real people, who like, even love each other, trying to make something work in a world that seems set on making everything as difficult as it can for them to succeed.

Mr Haywood has raised his game as a playwright here to a deceptively high level by making this touching comedy look so easy, with so much packed inside. Bring it on I say.

Websites, satellite channels should be on high alert here – drama we want to watch is coming to get us, and Darren Haywood as its creator is streets ahead of the pack.

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