The Theatreguide.London Review
With A Stranger
Trafalgar Studio 2 February 2012
This occasionally amusing, occasionally touching little play has a point to make. But it's a small point, one that it makes pretty quickly so that it has nothing left to do but go on making it again and again, and even at eighty minutes it is thin and slow-going.
We begin with a couple who have just picked each other up at a club, with the unspoken assumption that sex is in the offing.
In a string of very short blackout scenes we watch as, barely knowing each other but with that elephant in the room, they are awkward together at the bus stop, awkward together on the bus, awkward on the walk to her place, awkward in her flat, awkward in her bedroom. The prospects of the sex being particularly satisfying seem slim, and of anything resembling a relationship nil.
But along the way there have also been some flashbacks involving the guy and another woman, and they gradually take over as the play moves back in time to discover that he is actually living with the other woman.
In some more very brief scenes we watch them during the preceding day and, through flashbacks-within-flashbacks, through their first meeting and the early stages of their relationship. And they're awkward together at every stage – in different ways, perhaps, and for different reasons, but just as comically and sadly as the guy will be with his pick-up later that night.
'We are all sentenced to solitary confinement within our own skins,' Tennessee Williams once wrote, and playwright Stefan Golaszewski here adds 'We are all strangers to each other, never fully honest and never fully at ease however long we are together.'
The problem is that that point could have been made in ten minutes, by juxtaposing almost any one of the scenes of the first couple and almost any one with the second, and the many extra scenes in each half of the play really add very little.
And so it drags, not because it's badly written or badly acted – neither is the case – but because once we very quickly get the point about each couple, nothing new is happening or being told us.
Director Phillip Breen keeps things moving, even when they're not really going anywhere, and Russell Tovey, Jaime Winstone (pick-up) and especially Naomi Sheldon (live-in) do their best to assemble characters out of the dozens of brief snapshots that make up the play.
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Review - Sex With A Stranger - Trafalgar Studios 2012