December 2, 2012 8:27 pm

Straight, Bush Theatre, London

Jabbing punchlines and cringe-inducing comedy make this drama a real hoot

Just as Lewis and Morgan are settling down for the night, a package flops through the letterbox. Only it’s not the sort one associates with Royal Mail. More, um, lunchbox than letterbox, if you catch my drift.

At the other end of the appendage is Waldorf (Philip McGinley), a free radical friend Lewis hasn’t seen since university. They’ve spent their twenties very differently: Waldorf sowing his oats across the world; Lewis putting down roots with his wife.

But to what end? The value of his studio flat has dropped almost £50,000 in five years and, next to Waldorf’s off-colour banter, his wife’s jokes seem blander than their Ikea furniture. Morgan is, after all, a woman who responds to a surprise candlelit dinner by calculating its fire risk. Might there be more to life?

However, when it comes to picking that apart, D.C. Moore’s Straight, a transfer from the buoyant Sheffield Crucible, is hamstrung by its source material: Lynn Shelton’s indie-flick Humpday, a Sundance success in 2009. Rather than setting up a clash of values, Waldorf’s permissiveness serves only to show quite how hard-wired homophobic attitudes remain.

On a raucous night out, the two men hatch a plan to enter Hump Fest, “a bespoke holistic amateur porn” festival in Suffolk. A hotel room is booked and, the next morning, neither can back down. Nor, deep down, do they want to and so, in a plush suite, Waldorf and Lewis fumble towards a fumble, finding any excuse – both tangential and logistical – to delay the deed.

Here Moore goes further than Shelton’s film, but the end result remains an extended sketch and everything beforehand merely set-up. Nonetheless, laughs explode with a splutter from the start, both with jabbing punchlines and cringe-inducing comedy. It’s also surprisingly sweet; Richard Wilson’s production, timed to perfection, wisely swallows certain laughs for the sake of truth.

McGinley motors the piece with Waldorf’s no-limits bluster, while Henry Pettigrew has the look of a man about to bungee jump into a black-hole as Lewis. Jessica Ransom makes a quietly heartbreaking Morgan and there’s a terrifically spaced cameo from recent Rada graduate Jenny Rainsford as Waldorf’s latest conquest.

All this makes Straight a real hoot, but it misses the opportunities to be the full package.


www.bushtheatre.co.uk

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