Aug 9 2023 | By More

★★★★☆     More than a sex comedy

Traverse (Venue 15): Sat 7 – Sun 27 Aug 2023
Review by Tom Ralphs

ADULTS, the Traverse Theatre Company’s new play from Kieran Hurley, brings Conleth Hill, currently starring in the Power of Parker and known to many for his role in Game of Thrones, to the Edinburgh Fringe.

It is a sign of Hurley’s reputation as writer of 2019 hit Mouthpiece, both that Hill is in the production and that it would still play to packed audiences if he wasn’t.

Dani Heron in ADULTS by Kieran Hurley. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

In a New Town flat nestled amongst a raft of anonymous Airbnb’s, Zara (Dani Heron) has set up her own business and is unexpectedly surprised by a customer arriving early for an appointment.

It could be a picture of middle class respectability were it not for the fact that the business is a brothel, the customer, Iain (Hill), is her former English teacher, and Jay (Anders Hayward), who he is here to see, just happens to be a man.

From these elements, Hurley develops a dark comedy that delves into each of the three characters’ motivations, but skilfully avoids passing judgement on any of them even as they judge each other or justify the decisions they’ve made.

domestic simplicity

Anna Orton’s set and costume design perfectly create the dual nature of the flat. The pre-set is every inch a picture of domestic simplicity, with flowery sheets on the bed, a mirrored cabinet, a clothes rail that is bulging from being too small to hold even a modest wardrobe and a chest of drawers from Next.

Ten minutes or so later and every innocuous symbol of middle class domesticity has been transformed into an action-ready accoutrement to a modern-day sex parlour.

Anders Hayward and Conleth Hill in ADULTS by Kieran Hurley. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

Against all of this it is the normality and every day lives of the three characters that Hurley’s script and Roxana Silbert’s direction brings to life. Jay has had to bring his baby daughter into work; Zara is scared to tell her father what she does; and Iain doesn’t know if he’s more disappointed in Zara becoming a prostitute than in himself for visiting one.

The awkwardness of the situation is superbly captured in the dialogue and the performances. Heron switches between modern day business woman offering safe working spaces, to ex-pupil let down by false expectations of what life has to offer from a teacher she admired.

Hayward moves from the playful gigolo, to the separated parent, and the person who knows they are getting too old for their job but don’t really know what else they could do, with ease. Hill captures all the contradictions of Iain’s position as a family man who has lost all connection with his family and is desperately in need of company.

sexual farce

At the same time, all three excel in the sexual farce scenes, playing them with comic timing that combines their determination to lose themselves in the moment with the constant awareness of who they are and what is going on around them.

The play ends with a reflection on the relationship between the generations that aims to make a wider point of social commentary that isn’t really needed and feels slightly forced and unnatural, but that aside, this is a play that delivers comedy without sensationalising or moralising on its subject matter.

Running time: One hour and 20 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge St, EH1 2ED (Venue 15)
Saturday 7 – Sunday 27 August 2023
Various times (not Mons) – see website
Tickets and details Book here.

Traverse links:

Twitter: @traversetheatre
Facebook: @TraverseTheatre
Instagram: @ traversetheatre


Anders Hayward and Dani Heron in ADULTS by Kieran Hurley. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic


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