Brighton Fringe 2011
The Open Couple
Otherplace Productions/Something Witty
Master Marina Pub, Brighton Marina
A laugh out loud cautionary tale for men in midlife contemplating the temptations of open marriage: The Open Couple by Dario Fo and his wife Franca Rame, is given a dynamic and original production in the unusual setting of the Master Marina Pub, Brighton Marina.
In this farce about sexual politics in marriage, a Man persuades his suicidal wife that an open marriage is politically correct and embarks on dalliances with younger women, to her dismay and fury. After deciding to be on her own, the tables are turned when she confesses to a new man, Nobel prize nominated Professor and inspired singer songwriter: it is the husband who becomes suicidal.
Nicola Haydn’s production makes witty use of space and props: the bar becomes a window out of which the woman tries to jump, Kettles become guns, brooms become crutches, pepper pots become mobile phones .The language of this 1980’s Italian farce is updated and made locally topical, which made its exploration of the sexual politics of a marriage seem very relevant to the Brighton audience.
Samuel Dutton and Heather Rayment as Man and Woman bring real energy to their performances: the physical aspects of their farcical interactions are flawlessly executed and they both appeal to particular audience members, trying to enlist them to their cause. At one point, the woman (Rayment) asks a spectator to do up her dress, and the man ( Dutton) selects an older man as a potential date for his wife. This all adds to our involvement in the action: we are right in the heart of their furious and funny debates.
Farce can be difficult to do well: the two actors, on this second performance, become increasingly plausible as an embattled couple in a love hate relationship. Heather Rayment gives a feisty and persuasive performance as a strong woman too reliant on her husband, Samuel Dutton, in his leather jacket, relishes his role as a man approaching middle age who wants to play the field whilst keeping his wife on the back burner. Both actors finely capture the constant shifts in power between the two characters.
Both actors strip off at different points: it is to the Samuel Dutton’s credit that the Man, with his tiger-print pants and a breville bra who cuts the more ridiculous figure.
The venue, a pub overlooking the luxury yachts of the Marina, surrounded by cut- price outlet stores, was an inspired choice for this modern political farce.