It's one of my occasional, accidental themed weeks at the theatre, a musical theme this time: Three musicals, an opera and a "play with songs." It was the latter tonight, a romantic comedy with songs at Soho Theatre at that, so although I booked it was with some trepidation that the venue might simply be trying to cash in on former glories
. Unfortunately Rob Young's Ex
is a long way from being another Midsummer
. Ruby (Amy Booth-Steel) is planning to move to America with her new boyfriend, but first wants to meet with her ex Jack (Gerard Carey) for closure over a relationship she's not quite got over. Instead she's tempted to get back together with the man who broke her heart. Young's play is about the idea that women are attracted to "bad guys," but with the idea of twisting the romantic comedy cliche so the more conventionally physically attractive characters (Simon Thomas as Ruby's new boyfriend Keith, and Siobhan Dillon as Jack's new girlfriend Claire) are also the nicer people. But this doesn't automatically create rounded characters and we end up with two hours of circling rather vaguely around the possible couple combinations, and a lot of central issues that make no sense - not least of all why the unwashed shortarse Jack has women throwing themselves at him despite the complete lack of redeeming features in his personality. Things are a bit better after the interval once Dillon and Thomas, who have the stronger voices, arrive, but how well they sing can't make up for the material, Ross Lorraine's songs being remarkably half-hearted; "a play with song" might be a more accurate description for a show whose couple of dozen songs might just about add up to one complete tune, and which feel unconnected to the rest of the play. Tricia Thorns' production struggles to find a tone for the attempts at comedy which range from the sitcom-like, to panto, to the smutty, and as for being "shamelessly romantic" as the poster promises, romance may not be my area of expertise but I would expect to at least know who the hell we're supposed to be rooting for here, even if we can't quite do so. While the cast and production team are obviously doing their best it was still a very long couple of hours for me.Ex
by Rob Young and Ross Lorraine is booking until the 3rd of December at Soho Theatre.