‘Kiss Me’ is the latest play from Richard Bean, best known for his global comic hit, ‘One man, two Guvnors.’ It’s a beautifully simple two hander, the entire play set in a bedroom in London 1929. Claire Lams and Ben Lloyd Hughes explore matters of life, death and love with comic warmth and a delightful innocence.

Stephanie’s husband died in the First World War. With so many men dead and injured she has little chance of meeting someone else and desperately wants a baby. So she approaches Mrs Trollope who sets her up with Dennis, a young man who is on a personal quest to serve the nation by servicing the nations grieving women. Sort of like prostitution but there doesn’t seem to be any money involved and it’s all in the name of a Freudian notion of making love in the face of death. It’s a scenario bursting with comic potential.

There’s more than a hint of Downton charm, with a delightful dose of stiff English gentleman from Lloyd Hughes and bouncy early feminist from Lams. Stephanie drives a truck and smokes and Dennis drinks rum and has a passion for Sugar refining. ‘Rum and sex at eleven in the morning!” quips Stephanie, ‘This isn’t the Navy!’ The shock on Stephanie’s face when Dennis reveals he has fathered 202 children is delicious. And then he clarifies that there were of course 711 attempts. It’s all very precise.

Watching a play which is ostensibly about an awkward physical transaction, the relationship between the two characters develops almost imperceptible. Director Anna Ledwich’s production is a classic romance really, with elegant un-fussy scene changes and subtle direction keeping the focus on character development. Perhaps the true horror of the war doesn’t penetrate the carpeted room but this play is really about a series of moments in time. The couple get to know each other through conversations about war, religion, sex and love, pre-occupations as familiar to couples now as they have always been. What is initially a need for sex becomes a heart-felt play about companionship and finishing off each other’s sentences.
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