Theatre: Treachery on the way to Tooting

Review

REAL CLASSY AFFAIR ROYAL COURT AT THE AMBASSADORS

LONDON

IN NICK Grosso's last play, Sweetheart, north London postal districts were flashed on to the set, as the shiftless charmer-hero bed-hopped across the map in an indefinite postponement of finding a deeper purpose.

In Real Classy Affair, Grosso's latest very funny take on twentysomething lad culture, an altogether more epic geographic leap is projected: from North London to darkest Streatham. To the consternation of his ludicrously sharp-suited drinking pals, the nice, naively trusting Stan (excellent Nick Moran) plans to decamp there with his flirty discontented wife Lou (a sullenly seductive Liza Walker).

Stan and Lou intend to open a bistro. Lest we fail to appreciate the momentousness of this news, one of the characters reports that "a hush descended... all the way to Tooting."

Short of persuading the footballer Michael Owen to make his acting debut here with a full-frontal sex scene, it's hard to see how the director, James Macdonald, could have assembled a company that is more hip, hot and happening than the one in this meticulous, beautifully droll production.

Luminaries from This Life, Closer, and current movies Elizabeth and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, converge on Rob Howell's witty revolving disc of a set. Fortunately, the material has, by and large, few problems in living up to the cast.

Training a sceptical eye on the supposed strength of male bonding, the play focuses on the rivalry and treacheries brought to the surface by the married couple's mooted move.

There's the sensitive question, for example, of which friend will have the honour of hosting the farewell "do". There are two contenders, and it's not Stan who is going to decide. Joseph Fiennes's swaggering Billy, with a visage so long and vulpine that he makes your average El Greco sitter look like a chubby-chops, has a platonic, meet-for-coffee friendship with Lou. He also harbours an Iago-like resentment of his rival which seems to date from childhood: cocky "Mr Snakeskin shoes" Tommy (Jason Hughes), who sneers that love "ain't a hundred percent cotton". In his case, relations with Lou have evidently pushed beyond the platonic stage.

In highly patterned scenes, which switch between the lads' pub and the marital flat where Lou appears to be doing the whole of Finsbury Park's ironing, the position of the characters goes through ironic reversals.

It's fair to say that you can see most of these coming a mile off but where the play is surprising and beadily well observed is in the throwaway humour and diagnostic deadpan of the exchanges and in the male dialogue's shifts between strutting, grand eloquence and lavatory-wall demotic. "You're being a bit deep today," remarks Tommy after an outburst of psychologicalperceptiveness from Lou. "Well, it's all that daytime telly," she responds, without irony.

Grosso can also sustain a good running gag. For example, the one in which Jake Wood's Joey, the kind of lad who can't go to a bar to get drinks without having an adventure on the way, improbably, but logically, winds up crammed into a young girl's "Fancy a Fuck?" crop-top T-shirt, nursing a nasty head wound, and with his pockets cascading with loose change. All round, this is a pretty classy affair.

To 7 Nov (0171-565 5000)

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

    RuPaul interview

    The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
    Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

    Secrets of comedy couples

    What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

    The best swimwear for men

    From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
    Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

    Mark Hix goes summer foraging

     A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
    Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

    With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

    Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
    Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

    Aaron Ramsey interview

    Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
    Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

    Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

    As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
    The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

    Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

    Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms