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Review: Horse-Play (Riverside Studios)

Review by Daz Gale


Riverside Studios may be better known for being the location of iconic TV shows but lately they are proving themselves to being a great new space for theatre as well, with Ava and Operation Mincemeat among the shows playing there this year. Now, they are hosting the world premiere of a new comedy, but be warned, this one may not be for the faint hearted!


Horse-Play was written by Ian Hallard and explores the kinkier side of relationships. The premise sees married couple Tom and Tim deciding to spice up their sex life by booking an evening in a sex dungeon with a male escort. Sounds like a pretty standard evening, right? Well, it might be until they find themselves locked in with no way of escaping. What follows is a truly absurd couple of hours.



A premise like that runs the risk of getting tiresome too quickly. That isn’t a problem with Horse-Play with every ounce of humour drained from the situation, ensuring a consistent and hilarious play that starts on a high and doesn’t dip at any point. Ian Hallards writing is brilliant, with the characters still managing to speak in natural dialogue despite the ridiculousness of the situation. Witty and filthy one-liners are dotted around, ensuring you are never more than a minute away from the next big laugh, but more importantly, the play manages to progress its predicament and leave you with a satisfying climax.


The cast stars David Ames as Tim, also known as his superhero alias Butterfly. The loudest character, David delivers a masterclass performance as he goes through the different extremes of Tim who is the most panicky about the situation they find themselves in. His husband Tom (or Stallion) is played by Jake Maskall who provides the perfect companion to Ames’ Tim, displaying fantastic stage chemistry together which creates a believable and compelling relationship.



A standout in the cast is Matt Lapinskas as Karl (or Villainor) who may not have much to do in the first half an hour but more than makes up for it later on in the play with standout moments centred around him and his struggle to understand the situation he has found himself in. The second act introduces Stephanie Siadatan who is a welcome addition as Danielle, bringing a new energy to the mix, changing the dynamic between the three men and helping move the story along. The cast is completed by Nick Sampson in a brief but memorable turn as Mr Overton.


With brilliant direction by Andrew Beckett, the cast excel as they navigate their way around the fittingly confined space on stage. Designed by David Shields, the level of detail of that stage is exquisite, with every inch of the sex dungeon as exciting to watch as you would hope. Every nook and cranny is filled with a fantastic use of props, creating a number of sight gags and full of secrets that reveal themselves throughout often to hilarious effect.



While the content of Horse-Play can be frequently explicit, it’s actually a lot more innocent than you expect. Take away the X-rated situation our heroes find themselves in and you are left with a phenomenal farce where the heart is formed from the existing and new relationships emerging. The growth in our characters (though admittedly not in the way they expected) makes for a mesmerising watch, and leads to an utterly hilarious night. Great writing and a fantastic cast makes Horse-Play an absolute riot… though perhaps not one you’d want to take the kids to.


★★★★


Horse-Play plays at Riverside Studios until September 24th. Tickets from https://riversidestudios.co.uk/


Photos by Danny Kaan

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