• Chris O'Rourke

Changing The Sheets


Rachel Feeney and Harry Butler in Changing The Sheets. Image uncredited.

****

Patti. Urban chic with Sinead O'Connor cool. Hooks up with Mammy's boy child, Robert. A naive Clark Kent lacking an inner Superman, punching above his sexual weight. Showing as much sexual allure as a lost puppy. When Patti meets Robert via a hook up app, sparks sputter as the star crossed lusters skirt the edge of a relationship. Talking and having sex, often at the same time. Working towards an ending that if it rings true to life, rings hollow to the drama. Yet two engaging performances loaded with humour make Harry Butler's darling Changing The Sheets simply irresistible. In a tale where nice guys finish last, if they get to finish at all. Especially if they weren't really all that nice in the first place.


Less story so much as character study, Changing The Sheets is most convincing when it tries understand its two protagonists. Especially as its tale is a thinly veiled study of hetero male insecurity passed off as insights into modern relationships. Its conservative concerns leaning less towards Euphoria, Normal People or Conversations After Sex so much as Sex and the City, if the city was somewhere like Ballydehob. So incompetent and gormless is Robert, you want Patti to call his Mammy to come collect him after their hurried first date. Even as his bumbling suggests hidden depths to Patti. Simply for begging the question what kind of disasters was this poor girl dating for this guy to even merit a second thought? Never mind a second date. But a wine fuelled text leads to a second date, then a third, with Robert revealing a knack for oral sex. The oversharing, overbearing, overthinking Robert trying to shift them towards the early stages of a more meaningful relationship with the seductive prowess of Stockholm Syndrome. Patti, keen on the oral, is less keen on the relationship. The independent, grown up woman with wounds she wants to hide wanting an equal, not a child. Making their relationship look uncomfortably Oedipal.

Rachel Feeney and Harry Butler in Changing The Sheets. Image uncredited.


If Butler's script shows lots of merits, dramatic structure isn't one of them. The end might resemble real life, but it's a poor resemblance, poorly crafted. Under Anthony Biggs direction, compositional ingenuity with a same stage/separate spaces device makes a strong initial impression, with performers never making eye contact or engaging directly. If the device has only one place it can go, the ingenuity continues when it goes there for it not being the place you thought. Even so, same stage/separate space soon becomes a one trick pony for never pushing physicality to interesting or challenging places. Like Butler's captivating if cringe inducing Robert, it plays it all too safe and lacks agency. An impressive Rachel Feeney, who fakes more orgasms than callbacks for a When Harry Met Sally reboot, might give Patti agency, but Patti, too, plays it safe and is played safely. With Butler and Feeney there's palpable chemistry, and obvious talent, but there's also a sense of so much more they might have brought. Of a spark that never fully flames into the fire it could have been. Even so, they still generate a fair amount of heat.

Rachel Feeney and Harry Butler in Changing The Sheets. Image uncredited.


Inestimably charming, if dramatically disappointing, Changing The Sheets proves to be serious good craic. Less a wild night of sweat soaked shifting so much as an awkward quickie, it delivers a sexual snack that won’t ruin your appetite. Given the unseasonably warm Spring sunshine, it might even whet it a little. If its unsexy sex talk leaves a little to be desired, its humour seduces you, rendering you helpless. Made all the more enjoyable when you accept it has little to say, less to mean, and is just what it is. Like Terminator Two. There are smart, good looking people who think Terminator Two is a better movie than Terminator. I've listened to them. They make a compelling case. Then again, they did have a smile to die for and the most amazing eyes.


Changing The Sheets by Harry Butler, presented by Bewley's Café Theatre in association with Playground Theatre, runs lunchtimes at Bewley's Café Theatre until April 9th.


For more information, visit Bewley's Café Theatre

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