Horse-Play

As superhero Butterfly (David Ames) bursts through the doors of a sex dungeon, Ian Hallard’s Horse-Play has the audience laughing from the off. Spandex clad in yellow, complete with a butterfly emblem on his chest and bright pink underpants, he’s hotly pursued and tied up on a torture table by the evil Villainor (Matt Lapinskas). Enter Stallion (Jake Marshall) to the rescue, or not… as he gets locked in a cage! 

When Villainor briefly leaves the room, Butterfly and Stallion drop their generic superhero American accents and turn out to be middle class English couple Tom and Tim who have been married for a decade. To spice up their sex life they’ve hired male escort Karl (Villainor) for some cosplay in the dungeon - their own version of Tim’s fantasy to be Robin from the 1960s TV series Batman. But “BOOM” a slip up (literally) leaves them trapped in the room overnight and comedy ensues. 

It starts well. The set and costumes provide humour (masks off to David Shields). Shields has thrown everything at and into the black dungeon with leather chair, red ropes, cage, urinal and heaps of sex toys. Tom and Tim dressed as Butterfly and Stallion in mail order superhero catsuits is hilarious. Tim remarks that Tom’s homemade Stallion mask looks more like a pigeon than a horse. 

The gags, one liners, innuendos and silly situations keep coming, but don’t always land. The characters drinking flavoured lubricant to keep hydrated is ludicrous but doesn’t elicit belly laughs. References to episodes of Dynasty and Dallas (Tim’s a big fan) made throughout, may be lost on anyone under 40, but are funny. 

But the pace of the comedy slows down, particularly in the first half. This is partially due to the actor’s hesitation with some of their lines, but mostly because over two hours (with interval), where not much happens, it goes on a bit.  This sitcom about sex where there is no sex, would work brilliantly as a half hour episode. As a play, one act would make it slicker. 

The introduction of Stephanie Siadatan as Danielle, a sex worker dressed as a police officer, injects new life in act two. Siadatan delivers her lines well and is sparky. Her potty mouth and Essex accent plays into a stereotype though, as does the brief introduction of an Eastern European cleaner. 

Ames is funny as excitable, melodramatic, and neurotic Tim, who is worried about what his mother will say if the story of their evening ends up in the Daily Sport. Maskall is likeable as the calm, subservient Tom, who is always trying to please Tim. They have great chemistry, clearly love each other, and believably bicker like an old married couple. Hallard said he thinks “Horse-Play” is a love story and that comes across.  

Lapinskas steals the show. After sustaining a head injury, the confidence he exudes as Villainor disappears when he forgets who he is and what he does. His bewilderment, innocence and awkwardness are very amusing in this situation.   

The premise is farcical - think an escape room with sex toys. It’s a funny and fun evening, even if it needs a bit of polishing. 

This production was reviewed on the 1st September 2022 at the Riverside Studios where it runs until the 24th  September.  For tickets visit: https://riversidestudios.co.uk/see-and-do/horse-play-33461/

Photo credit: Danny Kaan

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