Revelations

Stephen Lowe
Hampstead Theatre
(2003)

The first half of Stephen Lowe's latest play is reminiscent of a Carry On film. It contains much smutty humour with many double entendres delivered by a cast of eight. Each character has deliberately been chosen to represent a stereotype and the actors merely have to fill the roles.

The orgy is initiated by a respectable older couple, Edward and Jeni (played by Michael Elwyn and Julia Swift), who are seeking that desperate spark for their sex lives.

They invite orgy experts, Tony (Paul Slack) and Shirley (Hetty Baynes), who have broad Northern accents and delight in their special subject; former missionaries, a sweet pair apparently called Jack and Jill (Bertie Carvel and Laura Rogers respectively) and a mysterious final pair.

While, ostensibly, this couple are desperate sex maniacs, Gerald Kyd's Tony and Rachel Sanders' Emma have other fish to fry. They are filming a documentary for the Internet with the others as innocent victims.

All of this can get rather silly and many of the jokes are of Carry On vintage. The play takes a more serious turn after the interval, as the revelations of the title fly around and force each of the individuals to face up to themselves and to appreciate their partners.

Each of the attendees, it transpires, is a decent person underneath it all and loves old people and children. The shock of revelation sends them back to normality, far more accepting of their lot than before. On a more metaphysical level, by the end, the missionary couple have attained a kind of new Edenic Nirvana of stunning Pre-Raphaelite beauty.

This is largely courtesy of designer Rachel Blues who was in danger of stealing the show. Her main set is a conservatory previously occupied by the Pre-Raphaelites that the modern-day company seek to emulate. It is filled with hothouse plants and cushions and has as a focal point, a stained-glass window of Adam and Eve in all of their pornographic innocence. This is great, but Miss Blues has not finished, as the set opens out to reveal the full span of her invention for the final scene.

The post interval navel-gazing helps to give the play and its initially shallow characters some depth and meaning. However, it doesn't completely sublimate a feeling that Revelations is a voyeuristic comedy trying to be serious, rather than the deep investigation into human relationships that Stephen Lowe and director Anthony Clark would wish us to believe.

Philip Fisher