Tuesday, 6 June 2017
by Sarah Page
Any right-thinking parent worries about the future for his or her kid, especially in these competitive times when even human beings seem to be turned into assets and liabities in the accounts' ledger of life.
Punts is a comedy drama dealing with physical and financial health, parenthood, kids, marriage - and sex. Lots of sex but not perhaps as you would expect.
Antonia and Alastair, a housewife and her barrister husband, live a seemingly well-to-do existence in England's capital with their one remaining child, 20-something Jack, while the other two sons have fled the nest.
Jack is sporty and affectionate - but he also has learning difficulties, seemingly from medical negligence at birth, which puts him behind his peers. His working life comprises of a couple of days a week in his father's legal chambers doing menial work shredding paperwork.
So what does a housewife and her barrister husband do to insure the future of their son? Maybe help him invent an app so that he becomes a new tech millionaire? Set up some savvy investments with presumably the compensation award obtained from a hospital trust?
In this case, determined to give their son every chance in life and fit in with his friends and brothers, his mother rather eccentrically but in a way understandably, decides to give Jack an enjoyable, but paid for, first sexual experience in his own bedroom.
Punts is filled with good ideas with a terrific cast, even if it veers somewhat uneasily between real life issues and a satire on both middle class private life and global commerce.
Christopher Adams gives a beautifully nuanced and wholly convincing performance as the hesitant but also confidently literal lad trying to become his own person.
The behaviour of aggressively loving mother, Antonia - Clare Lawrence-Moody - and his apparently more diffident bespectacled father Alastair - Graham O'Mara - stretches the bounds of plausibility, with the uneasiness of the mixed genres becoming more blatant. However the characters themselves have a succinct, if unsympathetic, credibility.
Florence Roberts is the cut-glass blonde and beautiful invited intruder into the household, eventually bruised by her encounter with the family, who has something in common with barrister Alastair - charging hefty fees.
Jessica Edwards' direction is also clear and succinct over the eight scenes of this one-act play. Set in the affluent West London home, Amelia Jane Hankin's spare set ingeniously combines the feel of a luxury home transforming it with a single piece of moveable wooden furniture into a kitchen and a more clinical sauna-like atmosphere.
The script and some of the design also seem to be self-consciously playing with book, stage, transatlantic film and TV references. We can see this making a very distinctive and quirky movie with plenty of touching humour.
However we're in two minds about the play - it has a lot going for it, especially with the resolute and sympathetic Jack. Yet the insertion of real life problems, obviously derived from research, feels rather awkward while the out-and-out satire works much better and provides the most lively moments.
At the same time, Punts is clever and sassy with an underlying seriousness, deserving of an amber/green light.