For a play based around an act of provocation, there is nothing remotely challenging about Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de la Patellière’s 2010 comedy What’s in a Name?
It’s a cosy farce about a tasteless joke taken too far, where a smirking estate agent ruins a dinner party by convincing the guests that he intends to name his unborn son Adolf – or more precisely, Adolphe.
Director and adapter Jeremy Sams gives it a breezy and admittedly entertaining treatment, letting the thoroughly dislikable characters preen and pontificate at length, openly mocked by their friends, oblivious to their own hypocrisy.
Joe Thomas – best known for his stints as Simon on E4’s The Inbetweeners and Kingsley in Channel 4’s Fresh Meat – confidently handles the comedy here, oozing self-congratulatory smugness as cocky prankster Vincent.
Laura Patch wrings humour out of an overfamiliar part as under-appreciated wife and mother Elizabeth. Spending much of the play in the kitchen, she fusses, placates, and apologises for the tiresome, dick-swinging men in her life – at least until she finally snaps, flipping off her combative family and storming out with a ferocious mic drop of a final speech.
Francis O’Connor’s detailed naturalistic set conveys the sense of solidity and security permeating these characters’ lives, lavishly depicting a trendy Peckham loft conversion, all exposed brickwork and built-in bookshelves. A giant family photograph dominates one wall – updated with extra faces when the new arrival appears during the show’s unnecessary coda – reminding us of the unassailable privilege of characters whose worst life experience is an especially awkward dinner.