Disclaimer And That: This review is of a preview performance, in fact only the second public preview. Not that you'd know from the performances - director Polly Findley has opted to give the production a tremendous pace, with the four-strong cast snappily exchanging lines of dialogue; perhaps too snappy at times, as some of the jokes seemed to get buried under the laugh from the gag before. But there's barely any visible signs that they're so early in their run, which is particularly impressive as the production had an early setback - Laurence Fox dropping out early in rehearsals, to be replaced by Geoffrey Streatfeild.
Penelope Skinner's Eigengrau is structured very specifically like a generic Hollywood romcom with its two couples - the good-looking but flawed protagonists, Mark and Cassie (Streatfeild and Alison O'Donnell) and their quirkier friends Tim and Rose (John Cummins and Sinead Matthews, who was in my favourite show of last year, Our Class.) The setup is also straight out of a romantic comedy: Rose has slept with Mark a couple of times, and thinks they're in a serious relationship; in fact she's scared him off and to complicate matters when Mark meets her flatmate Cassie, the two fall for each other. Meanwhile Mark's underachieving friend Tim has fallen for Rose. But this is where the comparisons end as the comedy is a lot blacker than in most Hollywood movies and the characters more complex. Rose's kooky, Phoebe-from-Friends persona is the tip of some pretty serious mental health issues, while Tim seems to have been over-reliant on his grandmother, and rather lost since her death. Meanwhile Mark and Cassie's relationship threatens to go down some worrying routes. Yet for the most part the play remains very funny, whether it's Cassie trying to deal with the fact that she's a staunch feminist who likes to be dominated in bed, or Tim's attempts to make Rose notice him. The lurches in tone could be problematic but Findley and the cast make you barely notice them. I'm not sure the themes came together that coherently for me, but it's certainly entertaining throughout, with characters who feel just one step away from realism and are always interesting. And you can tell Skinner is a good writer because of the amount of times I was slightly annoyed with her for coming up with a great turn of phrase, when I should have thought of that dammit! (Rose's euphemism for someone being pregnant being the prime example.)
Also, Geoffrey Streatfeild, close up? FIT. I hadn't noticed before, but that might be because the last show I saw him in was Pains of Youth so maybe I couldn't see the hotness through the tears of boredom.
Eigengrau by Penelope Skinner is booking until the 10th of April at the Bush Theatre.