Theatre review: Sex With a Stranger at Trafalgar Studios 2

Fine performances as relationship break-up drama cuts close to the bone

For a play that includes a three minute scene involving an ironing board, an iron and a jaded 20-something, Sex With A Stranger is oddly enthralling. But this is mostly down to a razor sharp script and an excruciatingly exact plot by Stefan Golaszewski.

Adam (Russell Tovey) is in the death throes of a failing relationship so takes the opportunity of a lads’ night out to slap on the Lynx and go on the pull. Against the throbbing beats of a nightclub, he meets Grace (Jaime Winston) and after an eye-wateringly awkward kiss they go back to her place.

Adam is charmless but endearing, his witless one-liners failing to crack a smile with his new paramour but – bless him – at least he’s trying.

Yet when the second half of the play moves back in time to see the interaction, or rather lack of one, with his long-suffering girlfriend Ruth (Naomi Sheldon), any empathy quickly turns to loathing with every lie and barely disguised dig he delivers at her expense. This is made especially worse when she spends an inordinately long time on stage ironing the shirt he eventually wears to pick up another girl.

Admittedly, wide-eyed Ruth is infuriatingly inane with all her talk of bookshelves, salads and supermarket queues, but watching her slowly turn into a paranoid mess makes for painful viewing.

There is nothing new here, but when you pair a universal story like the break-up of a relationship with spot-on delivery by a trio of fine actors it is a story that hits very close to the bone.

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* Sex With a Stranger is at Trafalgar Studios 2 in Whitehall, SW1, until February 25.