Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Can relationships withstand the brutality of betrayal? Joan and Tom, Tara and Peter; two couples struggling to comprehend their roles as lovers, partners and individuals. As Tom and Tara face the tedium of daily life, how far will they go to feel their hearts beat again?
Unfaithful is one of the more ‘traditional’ plays that I saw at this year’s fringe. With a wholly naturalistic style and impressive set, the plot explored the tricky nature of relationships over time and the challenges of fidelity. In many ways it was an engaging and well-performed hour of theatre, and at other times it felt quite trite and predictable and didn’t seem to shed much new light on the nature of love.
The story is that of two couples, one who has been together for thirty years and are struggling to communicate and keep the passion alive, the other is a younger pair trying to cope with their failure to understand one another and show they care. It felt somewhat predictable the way these two stories were intertwined in the play, and whilst this made it more entertaining it also felt like a bit of a gimmick.
There were some nice moments of insight into the fragility of the human condition, which highlighted how much we are all just careening through life, so often hurting and failing to really speak to those who are meant to be the ones we love the most. The middle-aged characters, Joan and Tom embodied this the most, and were played with depth and sensitivity by Cara Kelly and Benny Young. McCafferty’s text demonstrated nicely how easy it can be for relationships to stagnate, for the sex and passion to die and apathy and numbness to seep in. Yet it wasn’t an entirely gloomy tale, the power of communication was obvious and both stories ended with glimmers of hope for a better future.
The set rivalled that of a West End show, with a revolve, a bed that extended in and out from the wall and a full, showroom kitchen on the other side. It was nicely flexible to represent the various locations in the play, and the naturalistic design highlighted the monotonous domesticity that can seep into long relationships.
At its best Unfaithful resembled a good Mike Leigh film – well drawn characters facing real-world issues and engaging our empathy with their vulnerability. At its worst it felt like an episode of Hollyoaks, with its male prostitute, revengeful dinner lady and screaming arguments.