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Monogamy review at Park Theatre, London – ‘excellent performances’

Janie Dee and Jack Archer in Monogamy at Park Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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It’s not surprising that a play by the man considered by many to be the spiritual successor to Alan Ayckbourn should focus on themes of family and class. Torben Betts’ earlier works Muswell Hill and, more recently, Invincible successfully explored both.

For Betts’ new play Monogamy, designer James Perkins has created an impressive, vast, open-plan kitchen featuring exposed brickwork and all mod-cons.

This family kitchen doubles as the set for TV show Caroline’s Kitchen but tonight, TV chef Caroline is trying to prepare a celebratory dinner for her son Leo, who has just graduated from Cambridge.

Janie Dee’s Caroline has remained faithful to her philandering husband Mike but the facade of her marriage is crumbling. Dee delivers a meticulously observed study of a woman on the edge of a breakdown. She’s ably supported by Patrick Ryecart as the blustering Mike.

Betts paints a wonderfully lurid picture of the middle classes, juxtaposed with the fragility of those who serve them. Jack Sandle, as Graeme, the carpenter who longs for escape from a troubled family life, gives a performance of burly intensity and Genevieve Gaunt is also on strong form as coked-up PA Amanda, a woman still reeling from the death of her invalid mother.

The problem is that the play is neither a comedy, despite some farcical elements, nor a tragedy despite its Shakespearian overtones. The calibre of the performances compensates for this lack of clarity, but ultimately Betts’ play doesn’t quite cohere.

Janie Dee: ‘Theatre is a world in which I can explore things without fear’

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Torben Betts' latest play boasts excellent performances but suffers from an identity crisis