A play with political themes is always risky but in the last year, there have been so many political shocks that any playwright writing a politics based piece better like regular script changes.
Matthew Campling’s work is set during Brexit and just before the 2017 election (presumably so we can all have a night off from wondering if Theresa May will still be Prime Minister tomorrow) and focuses on the biggest Leave area in England; Boston Lincolnshire, an area which voted a whopping 76% leave and the couple that live there Marie (Anya Williams) and Jake (Jake Williams). Two outsiders (She went to Boarding School and he is from the North) they are jobless and bored; with their town and with each other. When Andre (Andrew Jardine), a British-born man raised in Post-Apartheid South African looking for (cheap) isolation.
He embarks on an affair with both and this could become some bawdy sex show but Campling takes his characters seriously and it is always tasteful. It is a little too serious though. The whole menage a trois scenario is as campy as hell but instead, it is a look at belonging; with some excellent points made about that area of the country’s fear of not just the outwardly foreigners but men like Andre, a man who is typical of the southerners buying second homes. Maria and Jake’s relationship could be explored further. It is never truly explained why they stay there, jobless and lonely, which is a real shame that it becomes about their sexual obsession with Andre because this has the brewings of a story about loneliness as much as sexuality.
Jardine’s Andre is a complex man, facing up to his past as well as his future. Confident in his sexuality (he reminded me of a young Rufus Sewell) and lacking confidence in relationships it felt as though Campling focused too much on Andre and not the characters and backdrop of Brexit, which was a much an emotional outburst than an informed decision on both sides. Campling’s previous experience as psychotherapist means he understands people so it was a real shame that dialogue at times jarred using terms like “archive” to discuss suppressed memories and feelings, which people just don’t do.
It is a strong work, despite at times feeling like it has too much it wants to say in its 80 minutes. I really enjoyed Rachel Adams’ set, which seemed to embrace the theatre’s small space than fight against it. I look forward to his forthcoming piece, The Secondary Victim, which explores his psychotherapist routes further.
The English Heart is on Etcetera Theatre, Camden from 13 June – 2 July. Tickets can be purchased here https://www.ticketea.co.uk/tickets-theatre-english-heart/
Matthew’s play The Secondary Victim is on at Park Theatre 14 November – 9 December. Tickets are available now https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-secondary-victim