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Theatre Review: Kiss Me @ Trafalgar Studios

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After a sold out run at the Hampstead Theatre “Kiss me” has transferred to Trafalgar Studios. 

From the first moment Richard Bean's new play is intriguing. We are welcomed to a red room with a bed in the middle. The floor is red, as is the ceiling, and the back of the room is covered in mirrors.

Claire Lams (Stephanie) Ben Lloyd-Hughes (Dennis) Image: Robert Day 

There is a woman in the room, she is nervously fiddling with the bed linen, trying to decide what shoes to wear. She is waiting for someone; she is waiting for a man.

It is a story about two people finding a brief love even though they both suffer from survival guilt following the First World War.

The woman is a war widow aged 32. She is alone in the world and wishes to have a baby.

The play is set in 1929, a period where the only way to have a child is to have sex with a man and get pregnant. But what if “there are no men"?

In this case, she goes to a doctor who says he will find her a man.

The man is a stranger. He comes to fulfil her wish for a baby, but there are rules. This is supposed to be as clinical as possible - no feelings.

They are not to know anything about each other, and most importantly they can NEVER kiss on the lips. They decide to call themselves “Stephanie” and “Dennis”.

The charming "Stephanie" (Claire Lams) can’t stop talking. Though she is a modern smoking and lorry driving woman, the concept of sex, as a pure physical transaction, doesn’t make sense to her. She wants to get to know him. This man that might become the father of her child.

“Dennis” (Ben Lloyd Hughes) is nice looking and well dressed. A posh English man, that believes he is fighting a war against death by helping people who can’t have children. 

There is not a moment where the story isn’t intriguing and the acting doesn’t draw you in.

The acting is sublime and both actors manage to create very vivid, believable people. At the same time the pain of the characters is beautifully set against the dramatic irony, that you as the audience know, that all this life they are fighting to create is not going to last, because the world is still at war, and the Second World War is on its way.

The brief first meeting is concluded without intercourse, but when the characters meet again, this time outside the setup from the doctor and the rules are broken. The story starts to take shape, and it all starts with a forbidden kiss.

There is an appealing contrast between Lams and Lloyd Hughes's characters.

Lams plays her character with bubbly charm against Lloyd Hughes composed exterior. Their different status in life, Stephanie being ‘common’ and Dennis being ‘posh’, is nicely shown in the costumes designs.

At the same time, the simplistic set design, made by Georgia Lowe, gives a good background for this sad love story. The back of the stage is a rusted old mirror, which reflects the story in a haunted way leaving the audience with the sadness of time passing. 

With gripping performances, an intriguing set and a story full of love, loss and drama, Kiss Me is excellent viewing.

Kiss Me will run at Trafalgar Studios until 8th July.

Tickets are available for £35, £25, £15 from the Trafalgar Studios Box Office and http://www.atgtickets.com or on 0844 871 7632 

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