Theatre, Comedy
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Decent stage adaptation of the film, but no vintage

It’s over a decade since the film ‘Sideways’ moved cinema audiences with its sun-drenched, wine-quaffing ‘Withnail-and-I’-alike antics in Californian wine country, and now Rex Pickett, the author of the original novel, has turned his book into a broadly entertaining, fitfully amusing but less affecting play. 

The label on the bottle reads the same: louche two-bit actor Jack (Simon Harrison) drags his kvetching failed writer mate Miles (Daniel Weyman) on a trip through Californian wine country on a last hurrah before his wedding. Wine expert Miles is newly divorced, depressed and fragile; while more carefree, reckless Jack looks to be walking into a marriage he’s barely committed to.

The film ‘Sideways’ was more brutal in revealing the downsides of chasing wine and women. David Grindley’s production goes for a more broadly appealing touch, walking a tightrope between parading its two female leads Maya (Ellie Piercy) and Terra (Beth Cordingly) in bikinis and then having one of them smack philandering Jack squarely in the nose soon after (inspiring shouts of ‘bastard!’ and ‘well-deserved’ from my audience). The intense, passionate wine chat is still the highlight of the story, and there’s a strong scene in a restaurant where all four main characters drink and flirt and Pickett’s dialogue barely masks seduction with talk of aromas and vineyards and vintages.

The play suffers in comparison with the film: it’s episodic, it lacks a sense of place and it’s less incisive on male depression and delusion than the movie. It’s a lighter, less serious affair all in all, and Laura Hopkins’s weak, fiddly set fails to find a solution to all the hopping about from place to place inspired by a book and movie set on the road. But some lively scenes and strong performances from all four leads just about lift it above the humdrum. It’s no vintage - but it’s drinkable plonk.


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