REVIEW: The English Heart (Etcetera Theatre) ★★★★
The English Heart is an excellent play, sexy as hell and very funny. This is Matthew Campling‘s latest comedy, after last year’s ‘Abominations’ at the Etcetera Theatre, which received multi-four star reviews and was Best New Play nominated. He is also one of the nicest and funniest people you could want to meet.
Boston, Lincolnshire, where the play takes place, is the area of the UK with the highest percentage of votes for Brexit and forms a politically charged backdrop to this story of fun and lust.
Andre, after a relationship breakdown in Johannesburg, has returned to Britain from South Africa. He buys an old family farmhouse from a, slightly dysfunctional, married couple Marie and Jake. Andre professes that he is looking for a quiet, uneventful life. Not expecting to inflame sexual and bisexual passions as he does. But he does not exactly discourage them either.
Andre seeks peace and isolation but gets caught up in the needs, frustrations and desires of Marie and Jake. A simple love triangle develops with everyone jumping in and out of bed, or, when in a hurry, merely dropping onto a convenient rug. No one is that fussy. But one lesson we should all learn is to not mislay your underpants in your lover’s bed.
Intermixed with the personal story is an up to the minute report on Britain’s manoeuvres in leaving the EU and the subsequent general election. Don’t, however, expect a deep philosophical treatise, this wrings out every possible laugh, chuckle and guffaw it can, from the situation and does not hold back.
Anya Williams plays Marie with a high level of sexual tension. Anya is an excellent, confident actor. Andre, the subject of Marie and Jake’s desire is played by the excellent Andrew Jardine, who handles the lusted after character with just the right level of faux reluctance. Marie’s husband Jake is played brilliantly by Jake Williams. His character at first is somewhat needy and irritating, but, as the threesome becomes more acceptable to all the protagonists, he becomes a much more interesting figure.
Sometimes plays of this kind, having simple storylines with an ever changing, news dependant, background (in this case Brexit) can begin to drift and lose their interest. Not in this case. It starts off funny and gets even funnier as it goes on. Maybe having the writer permanently in situ helps. Do go and see it before the political scene calms down, or Matthew is dragged away to Hollywood to become the new Woody Allen. The play finishes on 2nd July, so no excuses please.
Reviewed by Graham Archer