"A tangled web of sex, lies and jealousy"

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Owen McAfferty’s lean whippet of a play – first seen at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh in 2014 – crashes two disjointed relationships into each other and then picks through the wreckage. What McAfferty unearths is an abundance of 21st-century sexual jealousy, frustration and liberation in a smart four-hander that occasionally lets itself down by saying too much.

Joan (Niamh Cusack) and Tom (Sean Campion) are in a 30-year relationship that is barely treading water. The air between them is stale, and Tom prefers to spend his evenings in a hotel bar, supping pints alone, than go home and face his demons. When he is propositioned mid-drink by a vivacious young woman, Tom is suddenly faced with the unbearably exciting, forgotten worlds of infidelity, masculinity and sexual excitement. “Is that what we’re talking about?” he asks Tara (Ruta Gedmintas). Campion says so much with that one line, which he infuses with a lifetime of fear, lust and quashed excitement, that it disappoints when he talks later of wanting to “feel alive”.

Scalded and scolding, Joan reacts to the news of her husband’s infidelity by booking a male escort and taking out her frustrations on him. The escort, it so happens, is Tara’s boyfriend. This hefty dollop of dramatic coincidence can be easily forgiven when McAfferty has structured the piece so magnificently, with each scene feeding into and robbing from the last. Lies are piled on top of lies, stories are told by evermore unreliable narrators, and each character grows more slippery and complex.

No one more so than Peter (Matthew Lewis – that’s Neville Longbottom, for the benefit of any millennials reading). Having taken a job as an escort – someone who trades in fantasy – Peter has built up so many layers of artifice that his own sense of self has all but crumbled. While Lewis may not always capture the hurt behind Peter’s eyes, he does a fine job convincing us of a young man who has decided he is a cold-blooded, self-made capitalist, not a whore.

It is Cusack’s play, however. She paces and pounces like a cat as she admonishes Tom for his discrepancy. The desperate, bruised attempts to rekindle her sex life are so acutely realised that they are almost difficult to watch. She can throw out the word “f***” like no one else.

The curious relationship between Peter and Tara feels a shadow of the rich world portrayed between the older couple, and moments of subtlety and quiet heartbreak are often undercut by characters suddenly blurting out things like “I don’t want parts of you” or “I want you to see the real me”.

However, as a study of a marriage that has grown numb with time, and how we might find once again the love that brought two people together in the first place, it is quietly heartbreaking. Director Adam Penford has ensured a snappy, peppy production, with the emo-folk music of Johnny Flynn slotting nicely in between each vignette.

Author: Chris Bennion

"A powerful production"

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Owen McCafferty takes what could have been a hackneyed scenario – middle-aged marriage rocked by the imputation of infidelity – and gives it a raw contemporary twist in this insightful four-hander. Tom, a 58-year-old plumber, was having a quiet pint after work in a hotel bar when his peace was disturbed by Tara, a gorgeous 20-something who started shamelessly propositioning him. The piece starts in the middle of a row between Tom and Joan, his wife of 30 years, after he’s confessed to having had sex with the younger woman. Joan is furious and seeks revenge by putting on her glad rags and hiring a male “escort”  in the very hotel where Tara picked up her husband. There's now a criss-cross of infidelities because check-out girl Tara just happens to be the gigolo's live-in lover. 

The set-up may be a bit contrived but it’s hardly surprising that Emily Dobbs at Found 111 has been so quick to revive this 75-minute piece which was unveiled two years ago in Edinburgh and now gets a powerful new production from Adam Penford.  The intimacy of the space here  – with the audience seated like eavesdroppers on either side of a sparse set that increasingly gives the impression that the two couples are occupying the same bedroom – is ideally scaled for the drama’s intensity and rueful wit. 

It’s a play about those postponed conversations in a long-term relationship that it sometimes takes a complete aberration to trigger. It’s eloquent about the disappointments of ageing and about marriages that have gone stale. Niamh Cusack brilliantly conveys Joan’s scorching anger and hurt. She exults in her power over the male escort – lashing out in role-play abuse of him and turning the air blue with her explicit fantasies. But Cusack also subtly lets you see that Joan’s heart is not really in this. The hunky escort, Peter, is played by Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis, who nicely suggests the sense of comic deflation when his character is obliged to admit that, having been a failure at modelling and porn movies, he has only prostitution to thank for rescuing him from the drudgery of a call centre. 

The play keenly acknowledges the need to inject excitement into the boredom of everyday life. “She was asking me to be alive,” declares Sean Campion’s excellent Tom, in a daze of regret at the depredations of time, when he describes being picked up by Tara. Despite Ruta Gedmintas’s luminous performance, her reasons for wanting sex with him feel a bit cooked-up because the strains on the younger couple of Peter’s career don’t get the same degree of attention as is given to the travails of the older couple.  The play is artful about how much of the truth the four of them tell one another. And it manages to be warm, without being sentimental, as it shows Tom and Joan reaching an accommodation – lying in bed and poking fun at the memory of the people they first dated long ago. Recommended.

Author: Paul Taylor

"Magnificent acting. A play you need to see"

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Faithfulness. What does it truly mean? It’s a complex and misunderstood subject that Emily Dobbs’ new play Unfaithful tries to tackle head on.

Tom [Sean Campion] is alone in a hotel bar simply looking to get a drink, to wash away the plaster in his throat from a hard day’s plumbing. Tara [Ruta Gedmintas] however has other ideas. After copious amounts of flirting in the hotel bar, Tara offers him a fuck — in a doorway. This changes everything.

After hearing about the infidelity and in an apparent bid for revenge Joan [Niamh Cusack] checks into the very same hotel and hires an escort – Peter [Matthew Lewis]. An apparently simple business deal turns into a pretty dark scene of verbal abuse and desperation with Joan venting 30 years of frustration at Peter.

Owen McAfferty’s writing turns the whole “traditional” idea of being unfaithful on it’s head. The character’s reactions to this news is more about manly pride and communication as opposed to betrayal. After all, Tom and Joan have been married for 30 years and think they’ve seen everything together. That is until Joan learns that Tom has been unfaithful.

Campion and Cusack gave an absolute masterclass here in acting with their strong performances, commanding the attention of every eye in the house. While a somewhat lacklustre script let Lewis and Gedmintas down, their performances were equally as strong. Though at times it felt like they were only there to fuel the fire between Cusack and Campion, their own storyline seemed somewhat neglected.

In Found111’s small space the piece feels so much more intimate; and there are times where this can be uncomfortable. Campion giving rather vivid details of how his infidelity happened and a rather wide-eyed Cusack asking Lewis to “fuck me in the ass” can at times feel overbearing in such a small setting. Though Richard Kent’s design of the stage is magnificently minimalistic, the use of mirrors being a wondrous addition and adding a complete new dimension to the piece.

With a flurry of magnificent acting alongside a pretty dark and comedic script, Unfaithful is a play you need to see. While not necessarily suitable for a younger age or those with a faint heart, the intimate space brings this play to life and gives it an uncomfortable feel that makes the piece totally its own.

Author: Jordan Priestley

The Times

"Bitterly funny & deftly devastating"


Unfaithful, a dark new comedy about relationships on the brink, will leave audiences thinking hard about their own loved ones.

Tom is enjoying a quiet pint after work. Tara lies awake whilst her boyfriend finishes his shift.

When their paths cross, a spark is ignited that reveals the hidden truths of two tangled relationships; the unspoken desires, the piercing regrets, and the postponed conversations.

The ensemble cast features Matthew Lewis, best known for playing Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter film franchise, plus Sean Campion (Stones in His Pockets), Niamh Cusack (The Winter's Tale) and Ruta Gedmintas (The Tudors).

Directed by Adam Penford (A Small Family Business) and written by Owen McCafferty (Shoot The Crow) Unfaithful examines the impact on two couples of a chance meeting.