Home » Reviews » Off West End » Impotent, Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Impotent, Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Matt Reed
Directed by Graham Hubbard


Pros: This show is funny, smart and accessible. The obvious rude humour one might expect from a play about impotence remains mostly absent, thankfully.

Cons: A couple of characters (a failed beautician and her boyfriend) were overly stereotypical and the second half felt a lot slower than the first.

Our Verdict: This is a clever, well-written, well-structured play. It entertains while exploring the issue of impotence in today’s society.

Courtesy of Giant Olive Theatre

I’ve walked into shows tentatively before but I have to say that the title of this one made me very nervous indeed. As much as I was looking forward to returning to the Giant Olive theatre at the country-like Lion and Unicorn pub, I wasn’t sure if that was going to make up for an evening of flaccid penis jokes. However, despite the subject matter, I was very pleasantly surprised by the sharp wit of playwright Matt Reed. This teamed with insightful, sympathetic performances from the cast made this one of the most enjoyable and well-crafted shows I have seen. 

The show begins before the lights go down as five faceless men file into the waiting room of an impotence clinic. They sit with their backs to the audience while a female receptionist, played by Rebecca Crookshank, prepares the treatment room. As the lights go down, the doctor (Helena Blackman, runner up of BBC 1’s How do you solve a problem like Maria?) prepares for a day of solving intimate issues. As we are taken through Dr. Lane’s sessions, we get to know five very different men. Each one is introduced with a monologue spoken by the woman they have had their most recent sexual encounter with (all skillfully played by Jessie May). The clearly defined personality of each client is what makes each session so engaging and un-repetitive.
The premise obviously allows for a lot of sexual humour but this show places its real emphasis on the psychological aspects of impotence. The script delves lightly into amateur psychoanalysis with one client implying that the relationship with his mother is the root of his problem. The show also touches on another kind of impotence, namely the difficulties experienced by the female characters in the show. The receptionist is the cause of her own problems by blocking her dreams with laziness and lack of ambition while allowing herself to be boxed into a routine relationship. Dr. Lane is the victim of her own professional success and is an archetypal example of the modern over-worked woman who has no time for a personal life. Although these musings widened the scope and deepened the gravitas of the show, they were so lightly touched upon that they did not add as much depth as I’d hoped.
Having enjoyed myself so much in the first half, I was looking forward to seeing what the second half had to offer but, sadly, this was a slight let down. After the interval, the action mostly consisted of a group therapy session led by a hippy meditation expert which dragged on for far too long. Unfortunately, this didn’t gel sufficiently with the first half of the show. While the play was enjoyable in its entirety and most definitely recommendable, I felt it could easily go from four stars to five by condensing it into a succinct one-act play.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Impotent runs at Giant Olive Theatre, Lion and Unicorn until 26 January 2013.
Box Office: 08444 999 999 or book online at http://www.giantolive.com/tickets.html

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