Pro’s: The style has a uniqueness to it that makes this a show that will resonate with us all.
Con’s: A lack of solidity to the characters for the first half meant it felt a little imbalanced.
When within 30 seconds of the start you witness an act of fellatio (well, not quite fully witness but it’s there in front of you) you realise that Play Something is going to be blunt. By the time you have heard “fuck” said for about the 500th time, it’s safe to say you’re glad you didn’t ask your mother along. That frantic opening scene quickly sets the tone for the first half of Paul T. Davies’ enjoyable show charting the up’s and down’s of relationships, separated over two time periods.
We witness the younger M and F (Jacko Pook and Ben Maytham), from their first meeting in a sex club, both just looking for a quick easy fuck, then proceeding through their various random encounters, again simply for sex, not always just with each other. It’s blunt, it’s raw, it’s all just a bit, well, monotonous at times. But it’s meant to be, representing the nature of their youthfulness and hedonistic attitudes. It does though mean it becomes difficult for their characters to develop as its all wham bam thank you mam. It’s this lack of development that causes a slight separation between the two halves. Because when the story superbly segues, as our lovers break up and we watch them transform into their older selves (played by Matt Bradbury and Shane Whitworth), the characters suddenly develop and mature.
It’s here that the play stops being so hedonistic. Instead it becomes more subtle, the rawness and pure filth turns to amusing innuendo, none more so that the very charming discussion of their good friend Dick with their young godchild, a lovely addition that helps add some more depth to their characters. Slowly the pair build a life together, growing old in front of us.
The use of two different actors to represent younger and older selves is a nice touch, giving the play its more poignant moments; the two M’s drinking together to forget their sorrow, and much later the younger self holding the older as old age takes over.
What also differentiates Play Something from the hundreds of other love stories is how scenes and individual moments are sound tracked by the DJ, Claire Lois Walkinshaw, standing in her booth on the edge of proceedings. As important moments happen, one will declare “Play the XXX song” and that moment is sound tracked; the lonely song, the first time we met song and so forth. Each moment in their lives forever immortalised by it’s own song, one that when it’s heard played again will transport you back to that very moment. Admit it, we all have those songs. If anything, Play Something fails to make full use of this, after all, the title does reference it!
My other little bugbear; the theatre is above a pub, surely they could have borrowed a few glasses. Watching actors pretend to drink from imaginary glasses really made it feel cheap at times, it could have been avoided and really did grate as we watched them drinking through circled fingers!
Little gripes aside this is an enjoyable play, that could be fleshed out more (no not with more reference to Dick, however nice a friend he may be to them). It’s clever and charming enough in style that it does deserve a chance to grow, and besides, anything that makes such beautiful use of Nick Cave’s Into My Arms is a winner in my eyes.
Written and Directed by: Paul T Davies
Produced by: Neville Edrich
Box Office: 020 7835 2301
Booking Link: https://www.thedraytonarmstheatre.co.uk/tickets/play-something
Booking until: 22nd September 2018