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> > > Unlimited 2014: Birds of Paradise and Random Accomplice: Wendy Hoose

10 September 2014

Robert Softley Gale & Johnny McKnight set out to write and direct the most graphic, funniest sex comedy possible, with the Unlimited commission for Wendy Hoose. Robert Softley Gale & Johnny McKnight set out to write and direct the most graphic, funniest sex comedy possible, with the Unlimited commission for Wendy Hoose. Review by Amardeep Sohi

photo taken from above of actress Amy Conachan smiling from under white bed covers

Amy Conachan stars in 'Wendy Hoose', written by Johnny McKnight. Photo © Eoin Carey

“The production contains strong language and scenes of a sexual nature.” Never before has a disclaimer been so apt and necessary.

On reading the promotional material for Wendy Hoose, there’s a distinct sense that it’s a bawdy comedy that will push boundaries and stretch the markers of taste. What gets unpacked on stage, doesn’t so much push boundaries, but wipe them out completely, with polarizing effects.

In line with the common mode of forming relationships in the digital age, Jake and Laura meet online.  A short exchange of messages leads them to Laura’s blood-red bedroom, housed within a large box-like structure on stage, designed by Neil Haynes.

Laura’s already in bed; waiting for an intoxicated Jake, (who happens to like biscuits, cherry coke and lion bars) to arrive. Laura wants dirty talk, Jake can’t even remember her name, but their hook-up is interrupted when Jakes discovers that Laura doesn’t have legs; a discovery that sharply halts their sexual aspirations and forces Jake to admit “it’s not you, it’s your legs!”.

Instead of generating heat between the sheets, the pair exchange insults and engage in tempestuous discussions about tangled gender politics, size (yes, in exactly the way you think I mean), and the miscommunication that often accompanies a reliance on technology.

Graphic scenes are enacted between the pair, with equally shocking language, resulting in some audience members leaving the theatre. The relentlessness of these scenes can feel gratuitous at times, with the desire to shock overshadowing all else.

The production however, diverges towards originality and innovation through the ingenious, integrated use of the audio description. An element of accessibility that’s predominantly functional, it becomes integral to the comic value of the play.

The narrator cannot refrain from adding her own commentary to the scenes that she’s describing. Her sarcasm, and sharp, disapproving comments not only enhance the comedy, but simultaneously diffuse the extremity of what’s playing out on stage. A frenzy of emoticons appear as part of the surtitles, whilst BSL plays out on a TV screen in Laura’s bedroom. It’s so encouraging to see accessibility become a creative element of a production, and not merely tagged on.

James Young plays the hapless Jake with ease and Amy Conachan provides a strong counterpart as the straight-talking Laura.

During the post-show discussion, writers and artistic directors, Robert Softley Gale and Johnny McKnight spoke about wanting to make a big statement with the play, which they undeniably accomplish.

Wendy Hoose is expletive-ridden, gleefully obscene and not for the easily offended. It’ll either fire up the laughter canons or encourage a more direct response, and prompt a swift exit.

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