Clubland, Royal Court, London

All talk ­ but little perception
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The Independent Culture

Clubs are the new Never-Never Land ­ places where boys form self-protective clusters to avoid growing up, and engage in petty, meaningless fights or snaffle themselves some equally meaningless sex. Maybe you'll pull tonite, but it's just sex, innit? Maybe you'll bait yourself and the other guy into a fight, but it's just scars to boast about later.

Roy Williams's new play launches headlong into this world of immature men: Ben is the Peter Pan, married but dreaming only of smashing an elbow into his wife's over-large teeth. His best mate is Kenny, a Smee, rarely pulling, too shy to try. But this aims to be more than yet another play about the crisis in masculinity. Williams has another crisis up his sleeve: race identity. In the colour-coded mix of west London, the Africans wonder what the West Indians have that they don't, the West Indians try to fathom the attractiveness of white women and the whites slip into Jamaican patois.

So when Ben (white European) and Kenny (West Indian) run into Ade (African) during Eighties night at the Palais, old wounds are reopened. They were all at school together, but it was Kenny's task to shepherd the new immigrant Ade; instead he stood back and watched his white friends beat him up. Now Ade boasts a six-pack and a vengeful determination to bed as many white women as he can. Yet when Kenny begins something with Ade's (black) ex, all bets are off.

This has the makings of a sharp drama. But the scenes constantly slide into something manageable and as a result nothing memorable emerges. The duologues flow by with smooth realism and occasional wit, but the characters are never pushed to the limit.

In the end this is soap: more sex talk but just as swift and easy, just as unrevealing.

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