Swingers

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

This is straight down the line, old-fashioned hilarious. This is the story of the marriage of Mike (Barry Castagnola) bored, horny, insensitive and Vanessa (Martha Howe-Douglas), tired, stressed, and bored with infrequent, pedestrian sex. Mike fervently believes that life could be more like an FHM magazine and some sexual experimentation is long overdue. Vanessa, not surprisingly feels condemned, compared and unloved.

The ingenuity of this show is the intercutting of live action and film. As the audience walk in, Mike and Vanessa are watching a Forties black and white romance, all clipped vowels and repressed emotion, a summary version of Brief Encounter. The characters in this clip and all the others – German porn, documentary, webcam clips of unsuitable potential swinging partners, are all played by Castagnola and Howe-Douglas.

This is like watching Mike Leigh, played for laughs, combined with Benny Hill’s best sketch writing and comic performance. The filmed characters are slightly larger than life, but there’s no malice in the exaggeration and they are more sweet natured than sleazy, although we are dealing with wife swapping, organized parties and dogging.

The husband-and-wife team who front the seminar for first time swingers are straight out of Victoria Wood, suburban and wholesome, with a primary school practicality about sex. All these comparisons are not to say this is unoriginal, but I’m trying to show the pedigree of the comic tradition at work.

As the narrative unfolds with Mike and Vanessa trying out a swingers’ event, there’s excellent blending of live action and film, with the actors responding to their on screen opposite numbers.

Woody Allen has months in an edit suite for this kind of thing, but these two have pulled it off in the damp and smelly, resolutely old-tech Caves and it’s brilliant.

There’s an excellent narrative, some hysterically funny set pieces – the reluctant dogging in a Tesco car park made me howl, and the satisfaction of seeing Mike’s moment of hubris when Vanessa goes for it with another man.

This has got fabulous comedy acting, good characterisation and crisp writing. It really could be expanded and deserves an audience beyond the Fringe.

Reviewed by: Julian Chambers

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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