By Michael Kingsbury.
Finborough Theatre, London, UK
3rd October-28th October 2006
Seduced is an exciting play about what happens when a young working class couple turns up at the house of their middle age middle class hosts for a swingers’ dinner party. The first half envelopes the audience in anxiety and sexual tension, whilst the second explores the emotional consequences of swinging. The play questions the importance of monogamy in marriage and whether swinging is the beginning of the end of a marriage or just the end of the beginning.
The action starts in the host’s dining room, where Matthew and Naomi are preparing for their guests. Both actors slip into archetypal middle class roles amusing the audience with their usage of politeness and smiles to overcome their anxieties and awkwardness. Matthew, the instigator of the night, is the more nervous of the two, entreating Naomi not to be too flirtatious when the guests arrive. The arrival of the first guest Ryan, unaccompanied, heightens Matthew’s sense of anxiety. Ryan is boyish and the smaller of the two guys, but Matthew too readily tries to play the dominant role in their interaction. The sexual anxiety, which Ryan provokes in Matthew, intersects with class differences as Matthew attempts to accommodate himself to Ryan’s less polished vernacular.
With time Ryan begins to take control of the situation, especially when Matthew’s wife enters the dining room. Ryan gives her a Dickensian gentleman’s greeting, dumbfounding all. The tension mounts upon the arrival of Ryan’s partner Kelly, stunning in a sleek red dress, small just like Ryan, but incredibly shapely and with a desirous look in her eyes. Matthew’s anxieties immediately evanesce as his desire for Kelly takes over, and a palpable wave of anticipation drops the jaws of all the male members of the audience.
The dinner ensues with the sexual tension undulating, Kelly and Ryan’s brusque confidence grinding up against Matthew and Naomi’s reserve. Not only that, but from time to time, Kelly and Ryan, when they want to, show a remarkable degree of articulacy, causing shock in their hosts, mirth amongst the audience, and highlighting their supreme control of the dinner party. Eventually they seduce their hosts, with clothes coming off, and the audience wondering how far things might go.
The next morning the four protagonists come downstairs, with the happiest face belonging to Naomi. So happy in fact that she begins to contravene one of the fundamental rules Matthew had previously stressed the importance of, the maintenance of boundaries. She invites Ryan and Kelly to breakfast, which incenses Matthew, but also provokes a conflict between Ryan and Kelly. It is not long before Naomi and Matthew extend their sexual interest into their hosts’ lives and problems, and extend their invitation beyond breakfast to an indefinite stay. Matthew starts to act as a father figure to Ryan and is obsessed by Kelly. The relationships between all four become stretched and distorted until breaking point is reached.
In summary, Seduced is a fruity cocktail of sexual and class tensions, humorous without being comedy, racy without being smutty, asking timeless questions about sex and marriage which leave an uncomfortable sense of cognitive dissonance in the audience’s mind.