by guest critic Willa O’Brian
Deciding what is best is a tricky thing to do. It’s particularly difficult if you’re trying to do what is best for someone else. How do you know if you’re doing the right thing? Is your aim and end admirable but your means slightly suspect? It’s a constant balancing act and Punts attempts to tackle this fundamental question in myriad ways. Jack is twenty-five and has a learning disability so severe that he lives with his parents and needs constant supervision, or so his mother believes. But it’s difficult growing up under the wing of so protective a maternal eye.
On one level Punts, written by Sarah Page, is trying to address the important question of modern masculinity. Jack, played with beautiful sensitivity and idiosyncrasy by Christopher Adam, is confused by lads down at the club banging on about “fisting” but he also wants to be like them. It’s only after his younger brother gets married that Jack realizes just how much he has missed out on and his parents make a rather momentous decision: to overcome his shyness and and get him ready for “the real world,” they hire him a sex worker – Kitty.
Punts, though a tad preachy and overwritten, is compelling. Jack struggles with all of the burgeoning feelings that engaging in sex for the first time arouses – trepidation, pleasure and tenderness. And that is when things become complicated. When Jack’s feelings get involved, Clare Lawrence-Moody’s stilted and interfering Antonia begins scrambling and jealousy begins to rear its ugly head. First maternal jealousy and the suspicion that Florence Robert’s excellently meretricious Kitty was flexing her sexual allure at her husband.
On the whole however, the characters struck me as being a bit reductive despite being tackled with grace and care by the actors. Punts racks up all the cliches, the henpecked and long-suffering husband, the helicopter mum and last but not least the prostitute with a heart of gold. But what it does with great success unpacking how troublesome feelings can especially because they are often diametrically opposed to logic. When Antonia feels that Kitty has overstepped the mark in terms of consent – there is a fascinating scene in which the two women argue the merit, necessity and value of their lifestyles. And then all hell breaks loose. The ideas are fantastic, but it seemed that no one quite hit the emotional climax at full tilt and everyone was a tad mannered. No doubt, the show will hit its stride and the company will the stakes a bit more fast and loose. Nevertheless, Punts is a tender and interesting depiction of sex, families and trying to do the right thing.
Punts runs through 24 June.
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