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Lunch by Marcy Kahan

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Lunch by Marcy Kahan (2014).  Dir. Sally Avens.  Perf. Stephen Mangan, Claire Skinner.  BBC Radio 4 Extra, 16-20 March 2015.  BBCiPlayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04htrnt to 20 Apr. 2015

 

This award-winning comedy has a simple premise – two former flatmates Bill (Stephen Mangan) and Bella (Claire Skinner) meet every month for lunch and discuss various topics.  Being old friends, they seem prepared to talk about anything – except their true feelings for one another.  The five episodes of this 15-Minute Drama series have a “will s/he, won’t s/he” quality, as we wonder whether the two will ever stop beating about the conversational bush and come clean.

 

It would be invidious of me to reveal the outcome; suffice to say that in Sally Avens’s production we are very much in Notting Hill or Four Weddings and a Funeral territory, in which two well-heeled protagonists discuss their lives, the people they meet, the relationships they enjoy, yet seem pathologically unable to dig deeper beyond the surface of one another.  It’s as if any acknowledgment of personal feeling represents some kind of weakness, a puncturing of the fašade of respectability and/or prosperity that governs their lives.  There are interesting situations set up – such as Bill’s projected appearance on Newsnight in front of Jeremy Paxman (before he left the program, that it), but in the end we are left feeling dissatisfied with both of them.  We can understand how and why they are so emotionally buttoned-up (even the luncheon engagement is in itself a form of defense, with considerable discussion about what they will eat quite literally taking up the time they might spent conversing with one another), but that still doesn’t make us feel rather impatient with them.

 

Marcy Kahan’s script contains a fair share of laughs, but they tend to pall in the end.