My second trip to the National Youth Theatre's "Soho Six-Pack" season, and Michael Wynne takes the "body parts" theme of the season more literally, coming up with two short plays about body image and unnecessary plastic surgery.
Tits is about Ffion (Gwyneth Keyworth) who wants to be a glamour model and who allows herself to be convinced by everyone from her boyfriend to the agents and photographers she eventually gets to deal with, to get a boob job she clearly doesn't need. The self-delusion that she's doing the right thing can only last so long, and the penny has to drop when after everything she's done her eventual big photoshoot is still photoshopped out of all recognition. Although it deals with a serious subject the play has a light touch and the cast don't disappoint in terms of energy.
A possible side-effect of the unreasonable body image in the media takes the fore in Teeth, where Louise (Sophie Ward) suffers from Body Dismorphia Disorder. This second play is a lot darker for the most part, and often makes for uncomfortable viewing as Louise's self-loathing and utter inability to accept there's nothing wrong with her physically and everyone around her is not lying when they say so leads to her being seriously unpleasant to everyone who actually cares about her. I found it the better play of the two although it's a bit longer than necessary, with a few too many monologues and some repetitiveness until we get to Louise finally getting some help for her problem, and meeting a boy who suffers from the same condition.
Anna Niland's production is very confident, and often feels more professional than it actually is. She's hugely helped by Cristina Avery's choreography, which during scene changes fills the stage with dancing gym members and is done with real conviction by the cast. One area where Foot/Mouth has the edge on this double-bill is in the more even distribution of roles, which is only really relevant given the nature of the company performing the pieces - Tits/Teeth is a great showcase for the talented Keyworth and Ward, but while the cast is uniformly good I felt sorry for a few of them who barely get a couple of spoken lines all night. But not writing for the ensemble has probably enabled Wynne to come up with more focused stories. On a shallow note (which yes, is wildly inappropriate given the subject matter) it's an attractive cast who are frequently to be found dancing on stage in their underwear. Matt Stokoe looks a bit like what might happen if Robert Pattinson had ever bathed in his life, and (I think I'm looking at the right name, it's not always clear from the cast list) Freddie a'Brassard should keep anyone happy who suffers from the little-known but apparently very common affliction of "still has fond memories of Harvey from Sabrina the Teenage Witch." And he even gets his arse out, albeit behind frosted glass. Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, shallow obsession with appearances = BAD.
Tits/Teeth by Michael Wynne is booking until the 12th of September at the Soho Theatre.