The Whingers don’t shock easily.
Except of course that Phil is frequently shocked by Andrew’s sartorial choices, theatre preferences and general lack of knowledge of important issues (which to Phil means not the humdrum events in Castro-ted Cuba, but plot-lines in Coronation Street).
But when the friendly woman at the Barbican box office asked Phil “You are over 18 aren’t you?” Phil felt the first rush of blood to his hollowed cheeks since he discovered the small ads in the back of the Sunday Express.
Yes, shocking, shocking. X-rated. Not for the young innocents of this world. For it’s not Tough Time, Nice Time it’s Tough time, nice time. Andrew – always something of a pedant when it comes to other people’s punctuation, grammar and whatever the study of capitalisation in titles of things is called – was outraged.
Anyway, Tough time, nice time is performed by the theatrical duo David Woods and Jon Haynes AKA Ridiculusmus and has a deliciously nannyish strictness about who can see it. There is an age restriction of 18+ and there are boasts of strong language and adult content. Phil was concerned Andrew wouldn’t be able to cope.
So, forget plot (again): Martin (an ex-rent boy drug-dealer turned lawyer) chats to Stefan (a hack writer) sitting in a bath in a Bangkok spa. Now the Whingers have nothing against saunas or rent boys but do draw the line at drug-dealers, journalists and lawyers. Yes, it’s clearly the last two that might cause offence to the under-18s.
They don’t leave the bath for the 70 minute running time, but they talk, they make up stories, they enthuse about genocide and sex, and whinge about popular culture, they try to shock and often don’t really listen to each other. Yes it’s how the Whingers would be at bath-time if Phil had misfortune to find himself sharing Andrew’s fetid water. And if Phil bothered to bathe. Oh, but without the enthusiasm for genocide and sex.
It’s very well-written, the dialogue flows convincingly and it sounds quite like natural conversation. The actors slag off various commercial films in much the same way as the Whingers are occasionally wont to lay into the west end. Phil was particularly happy to hear an amusing precis of the overrated The Constant Gardener.
The acting’s pretty convincing and they succeed in creating the “utterly repellent characters” described in the programme notes.
But that’s part of the problem, whilst the whole play is rather engaging the characters are so unlikeable it’s hard to care, and the Whingers came out entertained but thinking it didn’t add up to much more than it being something to do with the nature of stories and storytelling. The abrupt ending was presumably to imply that there were more stories to come, but the show really only promised more of the same.
The static staging (the characters never leave the bath) meant the Whingers never saw much more than the back of David Wood’s gloriously bald head.
Nevertheless, the writing and the performances made for a strangely satisfying evening. Phil hopes that this talented pair are drafted into writing something more significant – an episode of Coronation Street, perhaps.
Having bumped into Natasha and her companion John at the Barbican, the Whingers dragged them to the pub afterwards as an audience for their own brand of random and mercifully fully-clothed ramblings.