Review: Under The Blue Sky
Duke of York's Theatre, London WC2
More than 100 years ago, Arthur Schnitzler's play La Ronde explored the idea of interlinking the love lives of several couples in a series of connecting scenes.
Now David Eldridge has taken Schnitzler's format and brought it into the present day with Under the Blue Sky, in which we learn about new loves, no loves, and old loves, rather improbably linked together by the fact that the three couples involved are all teachers.
Helen (Lisa Dillon) is clingy, whiny, a posh girl supposedly in love with Chris O'Dowd's unappealing Nick ("You must have wondered why I'm so needy, spending so much time with you" - a line that caused a sharp intake of breath among the women in the audience).
It is difficult to make any emotional investment in this pair, and it was almost a relief to move on to couple two, Michelle and Graham (Catherine Tate and Dominic Rowan), who are teachers at the school to which Nick has moved.
Tate - almost certainly the draw for this play - is horribly convincing as a maths teacher who has systematically slept her way through the staffroom and beyond - groundsmen, sixth-formers - all in a slightly worrying effort to compensate for being dumped by Nick. Dominic Rowan's Graham, a seedy and faintly repellent sex-starved drama teacher, makes a loathsome foil for Tate. The pair deserve each other.
Finally, we meet Robert (Nigel Lindsay) and Anne (Francesca Annis), a May and December couple wondering whether to take a chance on love. Annis - whose personal life has certain resonances for this role - wears her heart on her sleeve, and the raw emotion generated by this couple is almost too much to watch; it feels at times voyeuristic.
At this point Eldridge tells us of the somewhat unlikely fate of Helen from couple number one, and frankly, by this time, it was hard to care.
All the interest was held by Annis and Lindsay, whose performances are the best of a very good bunch in this enjoyable production.
But good grief, if any of this lot teach your kids, watch out. (Tel: 0870 060 6623)