4 out of 5 stars
Henry Pettigrew as Lewis and Philip McGinley as Waldorf in Straight. Photo Robert Day.jpg
© Robert Day Lewis (Henry Pettigrew) and Waldorf (Philip McGinley)

It is, in a very real sense, the ultimate bromance: on a drunken night out, married, uptight Lewis (Henry Pettigrew) attempts to prove what an open-minded fella he is to foxy stoner Steph (Jenny Rainsford) by proposing that he shag his best mate Waldorf (Philip McGinley).

Not a likely premise, true, but playwright DC Moore does have the excuse that it wasn't actually his idea: 'Straight' is based on Lynn Shelton's well-received 2009 US indie flick, 'Humpday'.

But this is very much the Anglicised version, drenched in lager, swearing and small disappointments. If the premise never becomes any less improbable, Moore pulls it all off via some brilliantly raucous comic writing. From the bewildered squaddies of 'The Empire' to the nihilistic office worker in 'Honest'. up-and-comer Moore has a killer eye for the neuroses of the British everybloke, which he lovingly amplifies, exaggerates and dissects.

Richard Wilson's production will be a wee bit lively for some tastes: an early gag involves improbably named layabout Waldorf announcing his arrival by waggling his cock through the letterbox of Lewis's overpriced bedsit, much to the horror of his wife Morgan (Jessica Ransom). But get on board with the boisterous surrealism of Moore's humour ('I don't even think that Michael Gove thinks he's like Michael Gove. I think that's like totally the point') and this is an exceptionally funny play, of the like the Bush has been sorely lacking since Josie Rourke left.

And there's substance under the wry lairiness. Modern pop culture endlessly fetishises female bisexuality, but remains terrified of two blokes snogging; here both Lewis's forced open-mindedness and Waldorf's obnoxiously in-yer-face hippie-isms seem increasingly inadequate explanations as to why they're actually doing what they're doing; but neither would it seem accurate to describe either man as gay. In a world where 'bromance' has become smirking slang for heterosexual male intimacy, Moore goes way beyond Shelton's film in exploring the grey areas that conventional masculinity papers over.

There's more to 'Straight' than waggling todgers, but it's rarely less than laugh out loud, thanks to four big, earthy performances. Pettigrew and McGinley are compelling as two unlikeable male archetypes slowly dissolving on unfamiliar emotional terrain. And while women are very much bit players in Moore's realm, both Rainsford and Ransom are gifted some terrific lines, which they dispatch with noisy relish.


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