The Things Good Men Do

Dan Muirden
Lyric Studio, Hammersmith
(2005)

Nasty Nick became famous as one of the early visitors to the Big Brother household. His spiritual cousin, another particularly nasty Nick, is a central character of actor Dan Muirden's first full-length play.

At times, as relationships break down horribly amidst macho aggression and feminine despair, we could almost be back in the famous, quasi-fictional house that is beginning to define the twentysomething generation.

Nick and Joe are a couple of likely lads on the pull. While Joe is playing the field, Nick claims to be desperately in love with Lucy, his gorgeous blonde girlfriend, and wants nothing more than to marry her and father three of her children. His sincerity is touching but proves to be nothing more than a mark of excessive dishonesty.

For no apparent reason, he is maintaining an affair with an Italian immigrant, the excellent Susanna Fiore giving the stand-out performance of the night as Adriana.

Nick has a few unlikely surprises in store. First, he finds out that his lover is pregnant and then immediately, that there is a 50:50 chance that his fiancée is infertile. For a man who loves children, the prospect of fatherhood might have been expected to be good news but in this case it turns Nick into a figure of evil rarely seen outside soap operas.

His comeuppance arrives courtesy of a series of unlikely clichés that include an audible answer phone message when he is out of the room, a best man's speech in which he mistakes the name of the bride for the groom's still-loved ex-lover and the arrival of a baby that makes him melt before its parenthood is established.

This play is far less about these things (that) good men do than men behaving exceptionally badly. At least Samuel James' Joe eventually meets a good woman and grows up. The best they can be said for Nick is that after the loss of every friend and lover that he has ever encountered, the need to act like a human being might eventually dawn on him.

Ciaran McConville demonstrated that he has a real ability as a playwright with the moving These Four Walls in Edinburgh last year. His portrayal of Nick, a man who seems to be suffering from a multiple personality disorder is not convincing, although this may owe as much to inconsistencies in the plotting as his acting.

Dan Muirden writes strong and believable dialogue that could easily have emerged from the Big Brother household but the plot and characterisation leave much to be desired.

Designer Tamsin Ayres has already won awards for her work and may well do so again. She uses a wide stage cleverly creating three playing areas, each of which is backed by a large hanging screen. This triptych looks like a work of modern art, one containing an assortment of useful household items, a second a stick of rock and an envelope and a last a trio of picture frames. The set proves both functional and attractive and there is little doubt that we will hear more from this very talented designer.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher