Parenting – declares Tamzin Outhwaite’s Briony at the start of this dubious comedy – is ‘far more dangerous than driving a car… Any old idiot can drive straight on to the six-lane motorway, dodging the juggernauts, causing great huge pile-ups in their wake.’ Briony is lactating heavily and depressed. Her husband, Barnaby Kay’s Keith, is on the edge of a nervous breakdown. They have left their three-year-old son with their parents so they can escape to a cottage in Wales and have a glorious child-free weekend with two other couples.
So how dismaying it must be to discover that they’re trapped in a cottage full of clichés. A distressing situation, compounded by the fact that in this particular part of Wales you can see punchlines approaching from 50 miles away. From the second you see the bottle of expressed breastmilk being hidden on a shelf, you know damn well it’s going to end up in someone’s coffee. And as the hapless pair – both left-wing teachers – declare how thankful they are that obnoxious poshos Charles and Serena won’t be joining their party this weekend, you know precisely who will turn up as last minute guests.
No, Simon Paisley Day’s debut comedy doesn’t trade in subtleties. Two depressed left-wing teachers, two gung-ho upper-class twats, two liberal smug marrieds (you’ll never guess what happens to them), and a delinquent teenager – these are the evening’s basic ingredients. Next door to the cottage, a rave provides additional opportunities for emotional disaster. So the question becomes what can the starry cast make of this scenario? The good news for the multitude who will be drawn there by Robert Webb is that he excels as the morally compromised smugly married Ross. It’s a compliment to say that he really inhabits his obnoxiousness – and as his uptight wife Rosy, Sarah Hadland does the best she can as a humourless character in an over-humorous universe.
But overall, Ed Hall’s technically slick production is too shrill – a distressing case of six characters in search of some subtlety. Even farce needs some original emotional insight, but by the time the mad religious Welsh farmer turns up with a gun you know that, in every sense, we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.
By Rachel Halliburton