Richard Bean’s bittersweet two-hander stands in marked contrast to the brassier style he is known for, in plays including One Man, Two Guvnors.
Kiss Me, first seen at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, charts a carefully calculated brief encounter in 1929, before artificial insemination and IVF made conception without sex a possibility. Stephanie is a 32-year-old war widow desperate to have a baby. Dennis is an ex-public schoolboy and one-man sperm bank sent by the unseen Dr Trollope to do the honours.
Anna Ledwich‘s tasteful production, playing out on Georgia Lowe’s dingy bedsit set with an uninviting single bed at its centre, taps into archetypal British reserve with its piano music interludes and awkward foreplay involving custard creams.
First seen manically tidying up in a silent film-inspired montage and talking 19 to the dozen, Claire Lams is tremendously endearing as a woman who doesn’t want to be a victim of her time. Although Stephanie is a ‘modern’ woman who works as a lorry driver and talks freely about her clitoris, it’s disappointing that she’s shown as not having thought through the practicalities of having a baby without a husband.
Ben Lloyd-Hughes likewise impresses in the tricky role of the serial inseminator dropping his professional facade for the first time. Under the illusion that he has been divinely appointed to repopulate a country destroyed by war, he undertakes his mission like some kind of avenging angel, blurring all notions of what it means to “make love”.