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Review: Post war modern women and making babies in Kiss Me, Trafalgar Studios 2

Kiss Me - production images - Ben Lloyd-Hughes and Claire Lams - Photos by Robert Day 10
Kiss Me: Ben Lloyd-Hughes and Claire Lams - Photo by Robert Day

It is 1929 and women out number men, the result of the First World War and Spanish influenza. Where are the men for a lorry driving, war widow like Stephanie (Claire Lams), perceived as past her prime at 32, independent - had to be during the war - and wanting a baby.

Who is there is Dennis (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), a sperm donor but not of the turkey baster sort.

In Stephanie's small room at her lodgings - landlady out the way - their unusual transaction is about to take place. Dennis is stiff backed, stickler for the rules of engagement - no kissing on the mouth - as laid out by the bohemian doctor who sets up the liaisons. He has the air and manner of posh and is well turned out - you could easily see him in uniform. Stephanie is nervous, chatting relentlessly, breaking the rules but she's also funny not afraid to poke fun at their situation, raise an eyebrow at an unwitting double entendre or talk about her sex.

Unexpected consequences arise from this unorthodox transaction and when rules get broken the two have to examine their pasts, their motives and where their lives are going. As the mirrors of Stephanie's room reflect back their appearances, their relationship exposes some truths about themselves.

Richard Bean's play is funny but also gently exposes the longer term consequences of war on men and women and their changing places in society.

For it to work you have to believe Dennis' motive for doing what he does is a genuine desire to help rather than merely carnal gratification and Ben Lloyd-Hughes convinces on that score - exposure of his flaws comes later and in a different form. What makes the play is Claire Lams conflicted Stephanie. She is a woman shaped mentally and emotionally by the freedom and independence made necessary through war but whom is subsequently grappling with the box society wants to put her back into and what she wants out of life.

There is perhaps more to explore on that topic and while tinged with pathos it stops short of being really moving but it is nonetheless an entertaining and interesting play carried brilliantly by its cast. It's 70 minutes long and I'm giving it four stars. Kiss Me is at the Trafalgar Studios 2 until July 8.