Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

The bad sex award

Plus: why Saint George and the Dragon should close for a week, for its own good

Simon Stephens gives his plays misleading titles. Nuclear War, Pornography and Punk Rock contained little trace of their advertised ingredients. Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle includes no information about the German physicist or his theories. This is a sentimental romcom starring Anne-Marie Duff as a giggling airhead who stalks a grunting Cockney shopkeeper played by Kenneth Cranham. He’s 75 years old and though she’s in her mid-forties she has the skittish desperation of a gold-digging pensioner trying to act the nubile bimbo. Both characters are bored loners adrift in London. And because they’re solidly working class (she’s a receptionist, he’s a butcher), they excite our curiosity as lesser beings far removed from our own social milieu. This is important for the writer and the audience. Had the play been about a female QC seducing a linguistics professor, the affair would have seemed unconvincing, and the emotional mood would have been far harder to capture through dialogue.

As it is, the couple are comfortingly stupid. We learn this early on when they express surprise that the word ‘cyclical’ has entered their discourse. Their personalities are not convincingly sketched out and they reveal themselves by spouting random ‘opinions’ that might have been generated by a computer. She tells him that she likes porridge and copulating with sex-starved geriatrics. He reciprocates with the news that he enjoys the word ‘deluded’ and relishes place names that rhyme. ‘I’m tremendously enthusiastic about chocolate,’ he adds. This navel-gazing wittering makes up much of their talk and the play develops into a series of fraught dates between two dim chatterboxes whose dialogue would barely make an episode of The Archers.

Then they have sex. The atrocity takes place on a springy mattress in full view of the auditorium with both playmates peeling down to their undies.

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