REVIEW: Bottoms Up, Liverpool Actors Studio
May 16, 2013
Bottoms Up is a new play by Ryan Simons, who also directs and stars in this tale of one couple’s attempts to liven up their suburban marriage.
Struggling with debt and having been made redundant, John (Simons) is barely coping in his day to day life with wife Janine (Emma Ashton), who we first see wearing little more than a towel, expressing breast milk as they make arrangements for a rare night without their baby. As she rushes around to get ready, things are already quite out of her control.
The arrival of charismatic Malek (Barrie Ryan English) from Janine’s art class strains the atmosphere even further. He is a symbol of the freedom of the outside world, carefree and confident, and John might be right to feel threatened. Malek has glamorous friend Lily in tow (Lois Molloy) as a ploy to keep John occupied while he makes a move on Janine.
It’s Simon’s little observations and details that make this play watchable. John and Janine might be falling apart, but the audience gets a real portrait of two people who have spent many years together building up a life. They are very human characters, who remain sympathetic despite their flaws. Real life is not black and white, and Simons captures their loving moments as well as their most unpleasant behaviour very well indeed.
Alternatively, the character of Malek is too broad to serve as anything but a device to throw a spanner in the works. A lively performance from Barrie Ryan English keeps the momentum, but the mystery behind this dubious character – who starts off as a free spirited type but becomes a lot nastier towards the end for no real reason – is slightly unsatisfying. Similarly what unexpected guest Lily has to do with anything is not exactly clear. If the two exist to create a cartoony, Pinter-type suspense and the audience is never supposed to know, it doesn’t quite seem to match up with the strongly fleshed out, well-written married couple at the core of Bottoms Up.
Saying that, it is an entertaining show full of laughs and drama performed by a highly likeable ensemble, with a solid script that really captures a sense of the complexity and mundanity of married life.