A broadsheet recently uncovered the findings from a survey of British people’s sexual habits, one of which revealed that something like 47% of us had cheated on a partner.
Shocking? Well, not in the emotional landscape of Stella Feehily’s play O Go My Man (an anagram of monogamy) currently running to rave reviews at the Royal Court.
Granted her landscape is modern Ireland, which, according to one of her characters is “apolitical and amoral, believing in celebrity chefs and reality TV” but the wistful, universal question posed at the heart of it is something those 47% of us may wish to ponder: in our disposable modern culture where we appear to surf relationships as we might do TV channels, just where is our staying power?
The story focuses primarily on Neil (Ewan Stewart), a TV war reporter, whose obsession in filming atrocities and conflict abroad has made him restless and dissatisfied with the stability of his devoted wife Zoë (Aoife McMahon) and daughter back home. Neil then leaves his neglected family to set up home with failing actress Sarah, the woman with whom he has been having an affair, who in turn abandons her own ten year relationship with partner photographer Ian (Paul Hickey). Phew. Got that?
The fall-out from this is precarious; both spurned partners embark on futile affairs of their own while Neil and Sarah limp on until an impromptu confrontation for all at Ian’s photography exhibition brings perspective.
Perspective is what the writer seems to being imploring throughout, in the form of the hilariously acerbic foreign character Alice (Mossie Smith) who appears in a number of guises throughout (as a vagrant, waitress and hotel maid to name a few) to deliver withering put-downs to the self-obsessed characters in their self-made domestic saga: “People these days. Whinge, cringe, moan, cry. Ahh I’m not having enough orgasms – better see a therapist. Oooh I’ll never be famous – get on Reality TV. Countries burning and bleeding and nobody cares.”
Attraction of the new is invariably tantalising, Feehily suggests and novelty over substance appears to be the order of the day. Palatable perhaps, but is it going to fill us up?
O Go My Man runs at the Royal Court until February 11.