Even the friendliest dinner party can go wrong and, in the Loft’s latest offering, things go from bad to worse three times.
Lifex3 offers the disturbingly analytical opportunity to view the thwarted ambitions and bickering realities of two couples from a number of subtly-altered perspectives.
Highly-charged relationship wrestling we witness early on later undergoes an intriguing remodelling in emphasis as we see the four revisit their squabbles with lines being swapped, loyalties transferred and moods turned on their heads.
We’re in familiar Yasmina Reza territory – the spacious Paris apartment, tasteful modern furniture, drinks trolley primed for the usual heavy shift.
Familiar too are the inhabitants. Argumentative, opinionated middle class couples fully-loaded with alcohol and a few things to fall out about, in this case the publication of a scientific paper and the go-to Reza staple of competitive child care.
The couples are themselves nicely balanced. Elizabeth Morris and Dave Crossfield as the hosts present a marriage as brittle as it is complacent. Cheryl Laverick and Paul Curran inject a bit of spice but can’t quite manage to mask their own frailties too. Throw in the nascent rumblings of an affair and the battleground is ready.
The acting is first-class throughout, making the most of the comedy as it arises and not falling too deeply into what can occasionally be a ponderous, slightly over-didactic script. The constantly-changing realities are well handled and the pace is kept up for the full duration.
In Sue Moore’s hands the production is beautifully-staged. The quartet weave their way around the available sofa space and the calm strains of vintage jazz act as a subtle balance to the discordant skirmished being played out. It’s luxuriously uncomfortable.
Anything placed under so close a microscope is bound to look monstrous and, as you’d expect, the four being put under the spotlight here don’t come out well. For all their clever talk and enviable status, there’s not one person here you’d really like to spend time with.
Take away the clever conceit of rewinding the action and reviewing it and this really would be just the evening drinks party from hell. But in the forensic, dissected world of Yasmina Reza, even hell has its nuances.
Lifex3 runs until Saturday January 27. Visit lofttheatrecompany.com for more.