The concept behind Nick Payne's WANDERLUST is a solid one. What is the relationship between sex and love, but the result is too scattershot and the play seems often like an adult sitcom rather than a coherent drama.
Joy is a 40-something doctor, married to Alan, a schoolteacher. Their marriage is running on empty physically and emotionally. Joy wants affection; Alan wants sex. They both want to save their marriage but don't seem to know how. When Alan rages at the lack of sex in their marriage, Joy suggests that they make lists of their desires and fantasies. Their sex life doesn't seem to be the central problem. They have lost the power to communicate. Alan has a hot affair with a cute young teacher. Joy has a moment of tenderness with an ex. Above all, she wants to regain the romantic feelings she had as a young woman. All this is a bit too much Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.
Meanwhile Joy and Alan's fifteen year old son is doing some awkward sexual experimentation with a schoolmate, Michelle. When they finally have sex, they both start fantasizing wistfully about marriage and children, as if sex leads inevitably to such thoughts. I don't know what young people Payne has spoken to, but I don't see much sign that my students have immedate post-coital thoughts of marriage and family with their partner.
All this is to say that I found moments in this play amusing, but didn't believe a word of it. The actors did the best they could with the material. Pippa Haywood (Joy) was wonderful, as usual, and Isabella Laughland, who played Michelle, brought real feeling to a part that could have been pure cliche. Simon Godwin was wise to keep the play moving on a unit set.
WANDERLUST was not up to the usual Royal Court high standard.
WANDERLUST by Nick Payne. Directed by Simon Godwin. Royal Court Jerwood theatre Upstairs. October 5, 2010.