Review – Duets

Duets by Peter Quilter – Horizon Theatre Company – New Wolsey Studio till Friday

Duets is a set of four short scenes about relationships written by prolific West End playwright Peter Quilter, who is most famous for two musical plays – End of The Rainbow about the last months of Judy Garland’s life  and Glorious!  about the ‘worst singer in the world’ Florence Foster Jenkins.

Duets is a straight drama which looks at four different couples, each in some sort of relationship – and explores how to resolve the present crisis they find themselves in.

Horizon have sensibly taken the decision to use a very simple set – just a settee whose throw is changed with each scene and a table holding the detritus of each room in which the scene is set.

The first one – Blind Date  – is a very accurate look at the internet dating scene – or in this case the dating column in the magazine ads.

Philip Steward plays inept looser in love and generally awkward human being Jonathon, about to  give dating one last try. He has invited Wendy over for drinks to see if they are compatible enough to go on a dinner date.  Nicky Seabrook is perfect as the equally awkward and socially challenged Wendy – who like Jonathon has had many excruciating experiences at dating.

Will they get together over a shared glass of apple juice – or will Jonathon’s clumsy jokes and Wendy’s naff present of a Tupperware of cheese scupper the relationship before it’s begun?

Secretarial Skills sees gay impresario Barrie –  a well controlled performance by Nigel Andrews –  and his long term secretary Janet, a beautifully bossy Jayne Lindill, in the throes of organising his birthday celebrations. Janet is loyal, hardworking and full of unrequited love for her boss – who will obviously never return the affections in the way she would like. But would they both settle for mutual companionship – or will Barrie finally persuade Janet to get out there and find herself a proper man?

The Holiday sees Philip and Nicky  back – this time on holiday in Spain as about-to-be- divorced couple Bobby and Shelly, who even though on the verge of splitting can’t give over a perfectly good holiday already booked.  As they gradually get drunker and Shelly more verbose, will they manage to keep from killing each other for a whole week?

Finally Nigel and Jayne return with Bride To Be – a scene where Jayne in a puff ball of a wedding dress confronts her fears of third time lucky – or not,  while her rather posh older brother Toby tries to get her down the aisle in time,  and before she covers herself with coffee, gets cold feet or completely soaked to the skin by the approaching storm.

All four actors did a very good job morphing into the separate characters and making them very different. The humour was (mostly) mined to its fullest extent – although the visual gags could have been made a bit more of in some of the scenes.

The simple staging allowed the actors space to perform – and both sets of couples worked well together. And the range of love songs to fill the changes of scene were very well chosen.

This is a very funny and at times very accurate portrayal of the various intricacies of relationships. A good evening’s entertainment  by a talented cast that is worth two hours of anybody’s time.

Go along – you won’t be disappointed.

Suzanne Hawkes

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