Janie Dee stars as a self-centred wine-guzzling celebrity chef in this funny and farcical look at modern day life.
Torben Betts’ newest play – at Richmond Theatre this week – is about a 50-year-old wine-glugging woman who presents the image of a perfect life to the world while her actual life slowly unravels around her.
Sound familiar? No? Oh, maybe it’s just me then. (Someone pass the Sauv Blanc – hic!))
Janie Dee plays Caroline Mortimer, a celebrity TV chef who lives in a beautiful house in North London with her wealthy golf-loving husband. She has a sparkling career as the darling of TV cooking programmes, has a new book out, and her son Leo has just returned home after graduating with a First from Cambridge university. It all looks so perfectly peachy.
But, of course, it’s anything but – and as the story goes on we’re drip-fed information that eventually shatters the illusion of Caroline’s perfect world.
We first meet Caroline in her trendy kitchen, rehearsing for her show. Her temporary assistant, Amanda (Genevieve Gaunt), is standing in for a Swedish chef in a funny send-up. The handsome tee-total builder Graeme (Jack Sandle) soon arrives, having finished some renovation works upstairs, and very soon, Leo (Jack Archer) is there too, home for a family dinner to celebrate his graduation.
Caroline is cooking a joint of beef for her vegan son, who’s trying to impart some important news that his mother is both too tipsy and too self-centred to recognise. Amanda, high on coke and mostly on her mobile phone, buzzes in and out of the kitchen trying to stop the publication of photographs of a drunken Caroline that threaten to derail her wholesome image.
The production by The Original Theatre Company is at the end of its short national tour, and begins a five-week stay in the West End’s Park Theatre on Wed 6 June.
Audiences at Richmond Theatre received Monogamy well – there were plenty of chuckles as well as some unabashed laugh-out-loud moments – but fans of Betts’ quirkily intelligent dark comedy may be disappointed by Monogamy’s, shall we say, overcooked story.
While the narrative centres around Caroline, each of the other five characters also has their own troubled backstory which felt, at times, forced and overly busy. We learn, for instance, that Caroline’s retired banker husband Mike (Patrick Ryecart), a loud and blustering bore who has never had much time for his children and cheated repeatedly on his wife over the years, was also beaten as a child. It feels a bit much, and the last piece of information doesn’t lessen your dislike for him.
That said, though, the play is funny and farcical, and hugely entertaining. As you’d expect, Janie Dee is superb as Caroline, who glugs down the wine and gets progressively more drunk as the show goes on. She’s very believable.
Charlie Brooks shines as the mentally-fragile Sally – to explain how she fits in would give too much away – but I felt she could have been given more to do. She doesn’t appear until after the interval which seemed a waste of her talents.
In Monogamy, Betts has put together a group of fairly unlikeable characters – but it feels up-to-date and real. And while you may not specifically like the characters, you’ll most certainly relate to each of them, and come away amused and entertained.
Monogamy is at Richmond Theatre until Sat 2 June. atgtickets.com