Punts review at Theatre503, London – ‘piercingly insightful’

Christopher Adams and Florence Roberts in Punts at Theatre503, London. Photo: Claudia Marinaro Christopher Adams and Florence Roberts in Punts at Theatre503, London. Photo: Claudia Marinaro

Questions of consent and capacity seethe under the surface of Punts, a measured exploration of desire centred on Jack – a young man with a mild learning disability – and Julia, the prostitute his parents hire to take his virginity.

Director Jessica Edwards keeps the show under tight control, letting the scenes simmer and the awkward silences stretch. Though this can occasionally feel like waiting for a kettle to boil, nuanced characterisations and abundant humour enliven the production.

Christopher Adams gives a restrained and well-judged performance as Jack, conveying much with posture and intonation as he negotiates the complexities of intimacy and independence. Florence Roberts is every bit as subtle in her portrayal of sex worker Julia, never entirely giving away her compellingly complex character’s intentions. Between hints of both genuine warmth, and a steely manipulative edge, we catch occasional glimpses of the life she keeps scrupulously separate from her career.

The action takes place on a crisp minimalist set, designed by Amelia Jane Hankin, and made up of fine, faintly luminous beams, suggestive of an architectural blueprint – at least until they burst into throbbing light during the scene transitions.

Sarah Page’s script – based in part on interviews with real world sex workers – is full of echoes and thoughtful juxtapositions. As his parents indulge in some cringe-worthy roleplay downstairs, Jack and Julia are sharing something more honest and intimate in his bedroom. As each character finally acknowledges their unspoken needs, the play builds to a tender and hopeful conclusion.

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Pensive but piercingly insightful character piece examines challenging themes of sex and disability