A Lustful Lunch At The Rosemary Branch Theatre

Despite the fact we’re all theoretically masters of it, the English language is oddly useless at describing the true state of our minds and desires. In addition, most communication is non-verbal; sometimes you might wonder why we bother speaking at all.

In Steven Berkoff’s snappy short, Lunch, where two strangers meet on a bench, the writer has taken this idea and done something amazing with it. Man (a nattily dressed Lawrence Williams) and Woman (wonderfully understated Hannah Maddison) clearly fancy each other, but we, the audience see that odd interchange between what minds are thinking and mouths saying. So while Williams is all nerves and shyness, blurting things out about the weather, inside he says things like: “my quivering nostril located your particular waves…located your special delicate whiff and zoned into it like radar.”

You might find yourself tempted to laugh hysterically at moments like these; the play is full of such instances. These honest but bizarrely expressed scenarios seem to whack right down to your funny bone. But there is also a lovely, believable chemistry between the duo. Maddison is prettily plain as the bored housewife craving a chance sexual adventure; Williams is shy yet contains a dangerous energy threatening to spill out, with his garish tie and dreadlocks combining with geeky glasses. The only time their connection seems to miss a beat is at the very end, when the “question in the air” of what happens now the encounter is over seems a touch contrived.

Lunch presented by Strip Theatre, is a surreal 45 minutes that explores the thrilling and insidious power of lust at first sight, and its descent into darkness. Its shortness makes it the ideal solution for anyone wanting some evening entertainment without missing out on too much sun. And for anyone new to Berkoff, this is a great introduction to his work – a modern Bard with a crazy zest for language that’s as intoxicating as any pint of cider you can order in the theatre’s pub afterwards.

Lunch by Steven Berkoff is at the Rosemary Branch theatre, 2 Shepperton Road, Hoxton, N1 3DT until 14 July. Tickets cost £6 and £8 each. Visit rosemarybranch.co.uk to find out more.

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