MISTRESS AND MUSE
Pentameters Theatre, London NW3
Opened 28 May, 1992

Don't be suckered by the leering figure on all the publicity for William Tanner's production of John Cooper's sensitive-painter-meets-crazy-stripper play; the body-baring is just coy, but the real obscenity is the alleged soul-baring.

The predictable first half Ray Cooney meets Dr Andrew Lovers' Guide Stanway is lumpen in setting up the central relationship: actors walk through their parts with the organic fluidity of a Noggin The Nog animation. After the interval, as Things Go Awry for the lovers, the text begins to sound like the verse of R.D. Laing, all you-don't-understand, I-need-space and a climactic episode of psychosis by numbers. Instead of having its expectations subverted, though, the audience has by now audibly deserted: chatting in the blackouts like schoolchildren when teacher's out of the room, reluctantly quieting down for the next class.

A selection of programme quotes on sexuality and role-playing doesn't amount to intellectual baggage, nor do a few vague remarks in the play suggesting differing views on art and pornography add up to a debate and the line "Any time not spent on love is wasted" is a cue for a walkout if ever I heard one. Stiff, but hardly throbbing.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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