Changing The Sheets – Bewleys Café Theatre – Review
by Brian Merriman
1pm at Bewleys Café Theatre, Grafton Street. Duration 55 minutes
Changing The Sheets is a spotlessly clean and slick production of Harry Butler’s play. To many, it is a comedy about modern dating and intimacy. It is intimate and there are lots of ‘When Harry Met Sally’ orgasmic moments which entertain. The short play is a two-hander in the capable hands of Rachell Feeney’s ‘Patti’ and writer Harry Butler’s ‘Robert’.
Butler writes well. There is a heart-warming naivete about Robert – he would make a great clean-cut bland TV presenter in later life. He has a spoonful or two of Ross O’Carroll Kelly humour which he delivers with charming sincerity. He engages with the audience from the outset. Robert lives at home with his Mum and their younger brother and can only have friends to stay over if they meet Mum first. The plot, which I won’t give away, is a physical and lyrical duet, with the strong ‘socially distanced’ directional style of Anthony Biggs.
It is about connection but do they connect? The issue is that the options open to him for males today to find emotional connection have changed and distanced. Social media, quickie sex and physical communication only, do not a future make for a young man who can already imagine his wife and kids. We are charmed by his honesty, he is in touch with his (limited) emotions and his genuine effort to express himself physically and verbally are a comical but persuasive burden.
Patti is light years ahead of him. She doesn’t look us in the eye. She has been around the emotional blocks and has her scars and strict coping mechanisms in order. She is about protection and preservation of self. For Butler to have constructed this female role in, at times, an unlikeable way, is a subject for further consideration. At face value, Robert has zero toxic masculinity. As a writer, balancing and contrasting the male and female roles as presented, leads to the question is there a subtext that remains unspoken? The text on self-image, performance and self-perception is revealing and thought-provoking. It is deliberate.
You could happily sail through these fine performances and funny lines as a light comedy, but Butler shines a light on modern-day ‘dating’ and connection with a particular emphasis on his view of the changing power balance between females and males. He exposes the chasm between the romantic ideal and the harsher reality of young relationships and it is not always palatable. There is a drama in this comedy. To laugh at sincerity is always a risk, even if the emotion is misplaced. ‘Changing the Sheets’ has us laughing but I am still wondering if we should?
Changing The Sheets
Written by Harry Butler
Featuring Harry Butler and Rachel Feeney
Directed by Anthony Biggs
Set and Costume by Cecilia Trono
Sound Design by Chris Drohan
Lighting Design by Colm Maher