Published in the Guardian Birds of Paradise/Random Accomplice on tour Four stars
JAKE thinks he's in with a chance. After a volley of sexting with an attractive stranger called Laura, he has taken up the invitation for a one-night stand at her Cumbernauld flat. Despite finding her already in bed, bosom heaving and ready for action, he gets less than he bargained for. And when he strips down to his Diesel underpants, so does she.
It's tempting to say that Johnny McKnight's play for Birds of Paradise and Random Accomplice is about the tyranny of body image, the urge for sex, the need for love, and the gulf between erotic fantasy and flesh-and-blood reality. But that would give the wrong impression. Although it is about all of those things, what strikes you most forcibly is how outrageously funny it is.
Big laughs hit you from every direction: from the British sign language interpreter who takes a break to eat a Cadbury Creme Egg at the same time as the actors; from the captions which come complete with cheery emoticons, high-street logos and vulgar graphics; from the audio describer, a privately educated prude who keeps up a withering commentary far beyond the requirements of her job; and, above all, from a cocky yet vulnerable James Young and a defiantly sexy Amy Conachan, who hit joke upon joke as the mismatched couple in this scabrous comedy of manners.
Below the surface, McKnight's play is as liberal and romantic as they come. Through a series of twists that confound expectations, it makes a plea to look beyond physical appearances and job titles to see people as they truly are. At surface level, however, the production, co-directed by McKnight and Robert Softley Gale, has no time for such soppiness; it is rude, ribald and hilariously off-colour, and bodes tremendously well for the new directorship of Birds of Paradise.