Writer: Bill Naughton
Director: David Thacker
Reviewer: Sally Cinnamon
The Public Reviews Rating:
Bolton’s most successful playwright, Bill Naughton, he of ‘Alfie’ and ‘Spring and Port Wine’ fame, has done it again with a little help from the Octagon. Lighthearted Intercourse is a moving, often funny, exploration of existence, the choices we make and the consequences we face.
Selfish, slightly self-obsessed Joe (Nicholas Shaw) takes the audience through his dilemmas, his mistakes and his unrequited love for Mary Carlisle. All the while, his sleeping wife, Madge (Fiona Hampton) slumbers on unaware. A shadowy Visitor (David Fleeshman) swoops down to offer wisdom and comfort to young Joe, telling him Carpe Diem is better than regret and wishful thinking.
Set in Bolton in the 1920’s during high unemployment and hard living, the couple struggle on through it all, making do but their plight puts strain on their tight-knit family and explosive arguments threaten the relationship.
Although the play is very much fixed in Bolton, it’s a universally themed story – doing the right thing or following your whims, responsibility and the grieving of a lost youth, day dreaming a better life or appreciating the present. It’s all wonderfully moving.
However, the first half feels long and perhaps this is due to the piecing together by Thacker himself from the different drafts Naughton had written. It plods and is dramatically barren, none of which helps when the action takes place in one setting. The second half fairs much better and really moves along. The three actors get to stretch their acting muscles finally.
Thacker’s direction is superb, the acting is a delight (especially as we’re treated to the vocal talents of two more of Bolton’s famous children, Peter Kay and Maxine Peake) and, with another draft of the piece, the play would deserve the same accolades as Naughton’s other successes.