Impotent at The Lion & Unicorn
Tucked away on a side street of Kentish Town lies this treasure of a theatre pub, The Lion & Unicorn, which during 2012 staged many new and revived productions of both plays and musicals. This is its first production of 2013, produced by Michael Oliver Productions.
We are subjected to TV comedian and stand-up star Matt Reed’s world writing premiere of Impotent, an explorative as well as hilarious piece focusing on the journey of five men suffering from erectile dysfunction. Hosted and anchored through the process by their doctor, Zoe Lane (performed very eloquently by Helena Blackman), they express their torment and the psychological reasons why they can no longer “perform” under pressure. Joseph (Paul Harnett) is the charming and openly gay vicar, who surprises with such matter-of-fact honesty about what’s physically going wrong, contrasted with tragic Keith (Don Cotter) – a “one-woman man” who can’t possibly understand why anyone would go for the likes of him. Timid, giggly, awkward Gareth, played by the very able and promising newcomer Tom Durant-Pritchard, assesses deep relationship issues with his confidence-wrecking mother, and gives amusing but bleak accounts of incidents with girls at university.
The story is interspersed with scenes of the “successful” couple Tommy (Randal Lyon) and Kelly (Rebecca Crookshank), and these are used to highlight the caveman instinct of sex and our basic understanding of monogamous values. The two actors are playful and directed fluidly, along with the main plot and set-up.
The stand-out performance of the evening has to be the caricature delight that is Jessie May, who appears as all of the different women (with various accents) who have experienced the “problem” from the other side. Her characters are pitched with an elastic face and embrace various costumes, yet she still manages to get us to relate and identify with each person she portrays. In the second half, where the entire cast meets in group therapy, she leads and supports the act seamlessly as the holistic therapist specialising in meditation and the release of breath. She does this effortlessly, despite the intentionally catastrophic and funny collision of characters, spurred on by the 27-year-old, over-analytical Saul (the vocally powerful Gordon-Levitt-esque Nik Drake), who refuses to take the exercise seriously.
Graham Hubbard directs with true honesty, which brings about the humour in the witty text easily and naturally. You genuinely laugh out loud at the absurd but hopelessly truthful circumstances these men have found themselves in, and yet empathise with every one of them on stage. Hattie Clarke’s design is simplistic enough to make a statement and evoke imagination, but remains adaptable. Matt Reed, simply and absolutely, succeeds in his hilarious premiere piece.
Impotent is at the Lion & Unicorn until 26th January 2013. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.