Birds Of Paradise and Random Accomplice
In the publicity for this production, Wendy Hoose is described as a “frank and hilarious sex comedy” concerning itself with two twenty-somethings who want nothing more than to get their “leg over” on a Friday night.
We are, however, promised a “slight twist”. The precise nature of this comes as no surprise to anyone who notes that Birds of Paradise is a company which specialises in placing performers with disabilities centre-stage.
On entering the performance space, the audience is treated to a seductive 'phone voice over a disco soundtrack. We are confronted with an image of intertwined bodies on the side of a large box, and sexy text messages are projected.
Presently the box opens up, revealing Neil Haynes’s ingenious set: a bedroom with a brazen red and white colour-scheme, and a bed in which sits Amy Conachan’s Laura wearing a cleavage-enhancing negligee. Having encountered Jake—James Young—online, she has enticed him to embark on the 30-mile taxi ride from Paisley to Cumbernauld with the promise of a night of commitment-free passion. Needless to say, there are complications.
Playful crudeness when it comes to discussing sexual matters is fairly commonplace in theatre; in respect of disability, obviously, it’s less frequent, except, perhaps, in plays discussing injuries suffered by soldiers, where there are broad political points to be made. In Wendy Hoose, the politics is personal—Jake is confronted with an unexpected situation and reacts accordingly, prompting startled gasps and nervous laughter from the audience. Laura’s game-playing is almost as alarming.
Perhaps the least successful element of Johnny McKnight’s script is the way in which it deals with the extent to which Laura has been deceptive. For the most part the text is witty, convincing and perceptive.
Young is highly likeable as the laddish but not entirely insensitive Jake; indeed, one is left wondering what direction the narrative might have taken had he been creepier, or more cynical. And Conachan engages as the understandably spiky young woman who, weary of “niceness”, yearns to shake off her cares for just one night.
The comic highlight of McKnight and Robert Softley Gale’s technically ambitious production is its playful use of illustrated surtitles and sardonic audio description—Julie Brown’s off-screen role is surely a nod to Susie Blake’s TV announcer in Victoria Wood As Seen On TV. Having the dialogue on display is also invaluable to those of us not well-versed in Glaswegian slang.
During an eventful 70 minutes in Laura’s Wendy Hoose (the title referring to the tell-tale height of her kitchen surfaces) secrets are revealed, truths are both told and evaded, accommodations are tentatively arrived at and, yes, sexual activity occurs.
Perhaps too painful to be truly hilarious, this is nevertheless an audaciously funny and universally relevant take on the search for connectedness in a cruel world.
Reviewer: Othniel Smith