A review of “The Leisure Society”
A good friend of mine, when he’s had one too many, gets into the habit of sending what he calls “termination of friendship letters.” I’ve only received such a document once but plenty of others have had them from him as well. As he reneges on them generally, they don’t really achieve much. French-Canadian author François Archambault’s play The Leisure Society is based on just such a situation and achieves just as little. It is, as The Daily Telegraph’s Charles Spencer rightly states, in fact nothing more than utterly “unappealing… dross.”
The cast of The Leisure Society: Melanie Gray, Agyness Deyn, John Schwab and Ed Stoppard
Though most other critics praise this one and a half hour play directed by Harry Burton as “highly enjoyable” and “well judged,” I have to say I found it shallow and beyond ludicrous. The story centres around a supposedly perfect couple named Peter (Ed Stoppard) and Mary (Melanie Gray) who invite their recently divorced friend Mark (John Scwab) round to dinner to tell him that their friendship is over. Mark appears with a young on-off lover played by Agyness Deyn and what occurs is a most excruciatingly nauseating series of events.
Talk of the Greek crisis confirmed that The Leisure Society was set in present times but the brash style of the four protagonists left me feeling as if I were in a setting more akin to yuppies living in a world somewhere between Gordon Gekko’s 1980s Wall Street and the 1990s excesses of Jeffrey Skilling and Enron.
Peter and Mary’s attempts to adopt a Chinese child “because they are kind of cute” and talk of fancy holidays don’t quite ring true but the gruesome sexual liaisons that become the fantasies and realities of this debauched group frankly made me want to vomit. Archambault supposedly wants to make the audience “feel smugly superior to the characters he depicts.” Instead, I just found myself wanting to escape them.
Each character reminded me of individuals who for various reasons are no longer, and with good reason, in my life. I didn’t send these people termination of friendship letters or invite them round to dinner and make a scene. I just let them fade into obscurity because I happened to realise that they were tedious. Rather than putting this drivel on the stage, the Trafalgar Studios should have just done the same.
Prince Philip once said: “Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed.” If The Leisure Society is anything to go by, I’d argue that this lot would be better to leave the stage and join the latter category.
The Leisure Society plays until 31st March 2012 at the Trafalgar Studios. For more information and tickets, go to: http://www.londontheatredirect.com/play/1047/The-Leisure-Society-tickets.aspx