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Wanderlust review at Jerwood Upstairs Royal Court Theatre London

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Nick Payne, who won the George Devine award in 2009, has a nice line in teasing titles. For his Bush Theatre debut last year, he came up with the tentative If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet, and now his follow up suggests both restlessness and sexual desire. A study of sex and intimacy, it looks at one middle-class family with a frankness that is both hilarious and fraught.

Alan and Joy Richards are a hardworking professional couple: he’s the head of English at a local secondary school and she is a GP. After some 25 years of marriage, their sex life has become dormant, and the stability of their relationship comes under threat when Joy meets Stephen, whom she has known in the past, and Alan becomes involved with Clare, a fellow teacher.

At the same time, Alan and Joy’s 15-year-old son Tim is taking his first clumsy steps in exploring his sexuality – with a lot of help from Michelle, his apparently more experienced friend from school. Payne writes with a characteristic mix of excruciating explicitness and sharp observation: moments of cringe-making truth are followed by laugh-aloud hilarity.

This production, by Simon Godwin – who directed a powerful revival of Caryl Churchill’s Far Away for Bristol Old Vic earlier this year – is well paced and flows smoothly through Robert Innes-Hopkins’s open set, which includes bedrooms, doctor’s surgery, school office and pub. The uniformly excellent cast is led by Green Wing’s Pippa Haywood as Joy and Stuart McQuarrie’s frustrated Alan.

As the teenagers, James Musgrove and Isabella Laughland perfectly capture their characters’ mixture of seriousness and awkwardness. Likewise, Charles Edwards as Stephen and Si?n Brooke as Clare invest their roles with a real sense of authenticity. This is a fine piece of new writing from a talent to watch.

Production Information

Jerwood Upstairs, Royal Court Theatre, London, September 9-October 9

Nick Payne
Simon Godwin
Royal Court
Cast includes
Pippa Haywood, Isabella Laughland, Stuart McQuarrie, James Musgrove
Running time
1hr 20mins

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