Richard Bean’s new play ‘ Kiss Me ’ places comedy opposite poignancy, raising issues of age, children and extra-martial relationships. Whilst confronting the small points of a relationship, Bean also tackles larger issues of good vs evil in his comedic new piece.
Set in 1929, we are first introduced to war widow ‘Stephanie’ (not her real name), a woman of 32 who wants a baby. She is clearly preparing for a visitor and, sure enough, soon ‘Dennis’ appears. This is a man who is there to facilitate her wish for a child and has fathered over 200 children; all this is arranged through a medical professional, of course.
The set is simple but effective, with the bed taking the focal point in the room but being used surprisingly little. The faded colors exude a shady, post-war vibe, whilst the warping mirrors lining the back of the stage reflect back the audiences own faces from a variety of angles, hinting that perhaps there is more of our own psyches within the play than we initially realise.
The 1920’s music playing gently in the background at the start of the play immediately propels us back 90 years, but the issues confronted are anything but archaic. Stephanie’s fear of her age and diminishing fertility is echoed in the uneasy faces of the audience at repeated emphasis on ‘I’m 32 and I want a baby!’
Claire Lams brings a cheerful sense of perseverance to the role, which develops as we witness her underlying tones of fear. Whilst drawing us in and intriguing us as to Stephanie’s motivations, it’s sad that we never really see the character brought to an extreme, either of sadness, fear or ecstasy. It would add to the play to perhaps see her at her darkest moments without her carefully constructed façade.
Ben Lloyd-Hughes makes for an understated but also slightly abstract Dennis. The character feels more like a framing device for Stephanie’s feelings than a fully formed set of emotions in his own right. Whilst Lloyd-Hughes brings huge strength and purpose to the character, Dennis somewhat lacks credibility when his motivation is revealed; aiming to defeat the god of death Thanatos by fathering hundreds of children. Whilst he proposes that this is his war, but it seems like this is a distraction and excuse to escape actually confronting his inner turmoil and guilt.
In all Kiss Me is a very funny, very thought-provoking play that is well executed and is definitely worth going to see. Comedic elements serve to heighten the poignancy of certain moments, and whilst you don’t really get to know either character in such a short time (the play runs to 75 minutes), the mirrors lining the set suggest that the play is not so much about them, but about how these issues reflect back on the audience.