Unfaithful

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Hard-hitting – if pricey – production of Owen McCafferty's provocative adultery drama

Owen McCafferty’s provocative-ish adultery drama ‘Unfaithful’ was a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of years back, but never got a London transfer. So now it’s been snapped up in a new production by Adam Penfold for central London pop-up venue Found111. 

If memory serves, the play has been slightly rejigged for London: instead of starting chronologically with the scene in which Sean Campion’s taciturn plumber Tom is cracked on to in a bar by a mysterious young woman – Ruta Gedmintas’s Tara – it begins with the explosive confrontation in which Tom bluntly tells his wife Joan (Niamh Cusack) that he ‘fucked’ Tara in a doorway. Joan, as you can imagine, is not best pleased, and launches into the mother of all bollockings.

A few judicious tweaks and excellent performances from unstoppable force Cusack and immovable object Campion probably put this a step up on the original production: more focussed and tense, a bit less funny but surer of what sort of play it would like to be. There are points when you worry McCafferty is dancing awfully close to a line marked ‘misogyny’ but he succeeds in wrongfooting you often enough for a play that turns out to be less about adultery, more about what it takes to hold on to a sense of self within a llifelong relationship. 

It’s a shame ‘Unfaithful’ wasn’t just about Tom and Joan: Gedmintas gives a good performance as Tara, who turns out to be a very different character to the one we first meet, but there’s still something uncomfortably wank-fantasy-ish about her flinging herself an older dude in a hotel. And the fourth character, Peter (Matthew Lewis), Tara’s escort boyfriend, pushes the play into contrivance (as prostitute characters almost inevitably do in plays).

I’m being a bit lukewarm about a pretty good play. Maybe that’s because it’s a somewhat startling £35 a ticket for just 75 minutes and no big names (ardent Harry Potter fans may indignantly sputter that I’m being unfair to Matthew ‘Neville Longbottom’ Lewis). But McCafferty is a great Irish playwright, underperformed in London, and ‘Unfaithful’ is worth an evening’s tryst.

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