The London Docklands des-res is as blandly immaculate as the soundtrack that accompanies it at the opening of the first in Alan Ayckbourn's Damsels in Distress trilogy of plays. For teenage schoolgirl Sorrel and her nice but dim best mate Kelly, however, it's about to get very messy indeed. First seen in 2001 and revived here for Pitlochry's summer season, the play's initial aspirational gloss is soon picked at by director Richard Baron to expose a dark-hearted twenty-first century farce of cracked morality, where everything is up for sale.
Sorrel's dad has walked out on her and her mum Lynette, who's taken a cleaning job after the dot com crash. The enterprising Sorrel, meanwhile, has set herself up in the online sex business, and, co-opting Kelly as her maid, sets up shop for some very special homework. The shenanigans that follow as Sorrel and Kelly prepare for their first client could have been lifted from Feydeau and given a contemporary kick by Martin Amis in a literary alliance with call girl blogger Belle de Jour, so hysterically wrong do things turn out.
It is the play's second half of bible quoting coppers, predatory hacks and where every male character is a creep of one form or another when the play's grotesquerie kicks up a gear. Kirsty Mackay and Gemma McElhinney let rip with comic abandon as Sorrel and Kelly, making for a spirited adolescent double act. McElhinney is a hoot as Kelly, while Mackay lends Sorrel a bluff vulnerability in a turn of the century tale of redemption coming through flesh and blood reality in the face of first world adversity.
The Herald, July 11th 2016