Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court, London SW1
Opened 10 January, 2005

When playwright and randy little bleeder Tim Fountain took this show to the Edinburgh Fringe last August, he drank in the scandal, and I was sniffy.  Not because I thought the show – in which he cruises the Internet and his audience chooses who he’ll have sex with that night, for real – was dirty, or for any such Puritanical reason.  I just thought that so blatant a cry for attention shouldn’t be indulged.

I still think that: basically, Fountain got fed up putting other people in front of audiences and wanted some of the notoriety for himself (and I write this as a long-time friend of his!).  But it’s humble pie time. On the show’s reappearance at the Royal Court, it’s bigger, brighter, brasher, and yet for all that somehow also more charming.  I reckon it’s because this version gets closer to the real Tim Fountain.

Last summer, even though the show’s subject matter and approach are both utterly in-yer-face (not to mention more southerly regions), Tim himself gave an oddly muted performance. He was actually quieter onstage than off.  This time, he’s given up all pretence to being anything other than the loud, lairy, blunt Yorkshireman he is.  The difference in confidence is visible, and it works to his benefit.

Every so often there’s a phrase or a technical sting that’s just too sharp to be true. Just a few times, too, a turn of phrase wildly misjudges the moment and almost puts you right off.  But once you accept that these bits will come along occasionally, and settle down into Fountain’s company, his openness can be oddly endearing.  He loves telling his filthy anecdotes, and relishes working his audience.

Prospective candidates for, er, getting involved in the show can register on www.timfountainsexaddict.com; Tim then chats with them online during the show.  After 75 minutes or so the audience votes for which of them Tim will pedal off to on his electric “Shagbike”. The next night, and on the site, he reports back on how the assignation went.  It’s all genuine, but not repellent, because it’s playful: real, but in fun.

On Monday’s press night, for the first time, we voted for an audience member rather than an online chat buddy.  Fountain confessed himself a little thrown as he and ex-monk Steve went off to the dressing room for their session.  Alas, the theatre has banned sex in there, so those who hung around in the bar waiting for a live report back were disappointed. But no doubt all the details will be on the Website shortly!

Written for Teletext.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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