Sex to the power of 10

The au pair and the student taking  a lesson in carnal knowledge in Lichfield Garrick's The Blue Room 

The Blue Room

Lichfield Garrick Studio

****

THIS is sex in the city - Lichfield style as the whole world seemingly passes through a bewildering array of beds two by two in a play where interest has always been more about the sensual than the intellectual.

Sir David Hare's 1998 play is based loosely on Arthur Schnitzler's 1900 work La Ronde which was banned on its first public performance in Vienna in 1921 - a state of affairs which gains any play notoriety and ticket sales.

Schnitzler was a doctor and his play was intended to highlight the meaningless, physical relationships enjoyed by Viennese society of the time and how they spread syphilis and dehumanised relationships in their mechanical chain of debauchery. Not a lot of laughs there, then.

Thankfully the updated version adds humour to the mix of nudity and mattress Olympics - all tastefully done of course with strategically held duvets, dimmed lighting and darkness for the more intimate moments - although our student character does manage one ace of spades moment . . . you need to see it rather than have it explained, trust me.

The play is ten scenes of sexual encounter between ten unrelated couples. There is no narrative, no plot, just ten sexual sketches with the only link being that we follow one character each time from the previous scene.

Ty Glaser as the prostitute, lady of the night, waiting for custom. The most honest of all the sexual contestants

Even then there is no link beyond having met one character before as only with the politician and his wife is there any hint at a reference to a previous scene when first she asks him about cheating and then he later tries to reach an arrangement with a mistress.

The scenes examine relationships, feelings and betrayals. Despite having ten to go at every one of the relationships goes as far as it can yet still remains unfulfilled. Whatever the two characters in each liaison were seeking they never find it. All they find is sex.

The excellent Ty Glaser (Hotel Babylon, Bones) and Robert Curtis ( (Hamlet/RSC/BBC) play all the parts with a helpful back projection introducing each couple so we know who we - or at least they - are dealing with, starting with the cabbie and the prostitute.

The play also had a useful sort of rule of thumb - or similar - marking system based on duration which sadly failed for part of the Press night. But then we all have those sort of moments when we fail to perform on the big night . . . don't we? Oh . . . ah well . . .

The cabbie meets up with an au pair, she ends up in bed with a student, the son of the household where she works, who then has a relationship with a politician's wife.

She in turn has sex with her husband - a novelty in itself in The Blue Room. The politician finds a model, the model ends up in bed with a playwright, the playwright beds an actress who has an aristocratic admirer and the aristocrat ends up passed out in the bedroom of our original prostitute - the sexual circle is complete.

Miss Glaser is in her first professional stage role having worked in the past in film and TV and seems to take to the boards as a duck to water managing to distinguish between her five roles with a variety of accents, mannerism and clothes and, just as important, relating that to an audience.

The task is not as easy for Curtis where distinguishing between a senior politician in the Government and an aristocrat, for example, was never going to be an easy task which is perhaps why he throws himself so enthusiastically into the role of  Robert Phethean, the playwright with an overinflated ego and overblown vocabulary.

Rob Curtis's student and Ty Glaser's married woman in each other' arms falling deeply in lust

His characters, all male obviously, have a different slant. There is no vulnerability nor idea of being used here just an array of characters championing hypocrisy, ego and conquest.

The Blue Room as a play when it first opened was overshadowed by the sight, in dim light, of Nicole Kidman's bum and Miss Glaser's equally attractive derriere will probably, quite rightly, receive similar attention but nudity and sex on stage hardly shock any more and perhaps what we are left with is Schnitzler's original message that promiscuous relationships, that sex for the pleasure of notches on a bedpost, is all meaningless. 

Because the play is a series of sketches none of the characters are allowed to develop. All we see are snapshots which leaves us feeling rather like the characters in the relationships we have seen unfolding before us -  somehow we are left unsatisfied, left feeling not so much an audience as voyeurs. Despite the intimacy of The Studio where actors and audience are in touching distance of each other we are left detached and uninvolved, just spectators. But perhaps that was the point. The Lichfield Rep production, directed by Alasdair Harvey, runs to 05-06-10

Roger Clarke

Meanwhile in The Blue Room annex . . .

****

TEN sexual encounters are laid bare in Sir David Hare's play which is cleverly staged by the Garrick Rep Company in their ninth season.

With the help of skilful use of lighting the action never becomes embarrassing, even when Robert Curtis provides a full frontal, facing the audience and bouncing up and down on a bed.

In that particular scene he is a student celebrating success with a married woman, and the experienced stage and TV actor also plays a cab driver, politician, playwright and aristocrat - though perhaps not so convincingly in the latter.

His opposite number is stunning blonde actress Ty Glaser who has worked in films and on TV but is making her theatrical debut in this play.

QUITE BRILLIANT

Her roles start with a prostitute and include an au pair, a married woman, model and an actress, and she is quite brilliant.

There are flashes of nudity in some of the ten scenes but nothing unpleasant, even though this Blue Room is red hot.

Near the end of each encounter information about the time span of the clinches is flashed onto a screen, ranging from a few seconds to three hours, and even one red-faced zero!

The Blue Room, is directed by Alasdair Harvey To 05.06.10.

Paul Marston

home Lichfield Garrick