First Night: The proof that lads' culture can be classy

'Real Classy Affair' Royal Court London
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The Independent Online
IN NICK GROSSO'S last play, Sweetheart, London postal districts were flashed on to the set as the shiftless charmer-hero bed-hopped his way across the map in an indefinite postponement of finding a true purpose.

In a Real Classy Affair, Grosso's new, very funny take on twentysomething lad culture, an altogether more epic geographical leap is projected, from North London to darkest Streatham where, much to the consternation of his sharp-suited drinking pals and life-long friends, the nice Stan (excellent Nick Moran) plans to decamp with his discontented flirty wife Lou (delectable Liza Walker) to open a bistro. One character claims: "A hush descended... all the way to Tooting it went".

Short of also persuading the footballer Michael Owen to make his stage debut with a full frontal nude scene, it is hard to see how director James Macdonald could have assembled a cast more hip, hot and happening for this meticulous and beautiful, droll production. Stars from Closer, This Life and the current movies Elizabeth and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels converge on Rob Howell's circular revolving set - and the material pretty much lives up to the cast.

Training a sceptical eye on the supposed strengths of male-bonding, the play surveys the rivalry and treachery that are brought to the surface by the married couple's mooted move. There is the sensitive question, for example, of whose pad will host the farewell function. There are two contenders. Joseph Fienne's swaggering, vulpine-faced Billy has a platonic, conversational rapport with Lou and harbours an Iago-like resentment that seems to date from the childhood of Jason Hughes's cocky "Mr Snakeskin Shoes Tommy", whose intimacy with Lou has evidently gone much further.

In highly patterned scenes, the positions of the antagonists go through various ironic reversals.

Yes, you can see these coming a mile off, but that may be the point. This does not mean the play's talent is all for local dialogue, though the dead-pan diagnostic pointers of the exchanges are a key part of the pleasure. .

A consolidation perhaps, rather than extension of Grosso's talent but a pretty classy affair, all the same.