We don’t see any of the cars that the couples in Raving drive from London to their weekend cottage in Wales, but it’d be no surprise to learn they came in a Prius convoy, sticking very firmly to the middle of the road. The ambitions of this quasi-farce are limited to skewering middle class mores, though if that’s enough for you, Simon Paisley Day’s consistently funny play does that modest job extremely well indeed. Light hypocrisy and common or garden perversity are held up to the light, ritually ridiculed then (more or less) excused as harmless eccentricity in a play chiefly designed as a sweetmeat for a Hampstead audience who simply want a bloody good laugh on a dark Autumn evening. And why not?
The plot is simple: three middle-aged couples escape the big smoke and the demands of their jobs and kids for an ill-judged booze-up in a wet and windy country retreat where – horror of horrors – it’s impossible to get a phone signal. And if that sounds like a pressure cooker on top of the Aga, just wait for the sexed-up teenager and farmer with shotgun to drop by.
There are a smorgasbord of gags on offer here – wry quips, observational ditties, some well-timed slapstick and a smattering of pleasingly terrible puns – all of which are delivered with expert timing by an extremely gifted comic cast under the sharp direction of Edward Hall. There are also plenty of problems – the pace is uneven and the comic justice is not doled out very equally (poor Robert Webb!) and the structure could certainly have been tighter and more plausible. But this is an undeniable crowd-pleaser that’s well worth getting a baby-sitter for.
Raving is on at the Hampstead Theatre until 23 November 2013.
Londonist saw this play on a complimentary press ticket.