Matt Byrne Media
Holden Street Theatres
Until 21 Oct 2017

Review by Maggie Wood

Matt Byrne Media’s “Men Behaving Badly” is a faithful rendition of the mid 90s UK sitcom. Using four of the half-hour show scripts we get to know laddish flatmates Gary and Tony, and their lives and loves.

Gary’s squeeze is the long-suffering Dorothy, while Tony suffers unrequited love from Deborah, who lives in the flat above.

The women get to play straight ‘men’ to the lads’ oafish comedy, and it’s a hankering back to the days when such drunken and sexually questionable behaviour was, well, unquestionable. You can see traces of classic British sitcom stereotypes in the pedigree of “Men Behaving Badly”, and if you play the scripts straight you get a nostalgic trip back to a past that at least 50 per cent of the population is glad is gone – or at least making its way out the door.

However, Byrne’s production has a few secret weapons that release both the irony and the latent laughs in this production.

By teaming Rohan Watts and Brendan Cooney as Gary and Tony, respectively, he has produced a comedy duo confident enough in their skills – and each other – to go off-script on a regular basis – and it’s a gift to the audience.

Both men present heightened caricatures of their TV characters, giving them much needed energy and immediacy for a live audience. They break the fourth wall often and engage the audience in backchat. It’s this connection with the audience that brings us into the joke – we all know these guys are idiots, but they’re not inherently bad. We’re all here for the evening so let’s strap in and enjoy.

And we do enjoy, which, after all is the whole idea.

Dorothy is played with suitable world-weariness by Georgia Stockham, and Cheryl Douglas thoroughly enjoys the trials that Deborah puts Tony through.

Heather Riley and John Matsen are straight from central casting as the slightly dotty workmates of Tony, and Nick Kennett is suitably horrible as an erstwhile boyfriend of Deborah.

Director Matt Byrne manages to keep the action moving on what is a small open stage using discrete lighting to draw focus. He also plays Les, the dilapidated landlord who talks only with a mouthful of peanuts and offers customers a ‘free gherkin’ on a regular basis. Fewer peanuts in the mouth would improve diction.

Niki Martin, Chris Stansfield, Heather Crawford and Rebecca Mason provide strong support in a number of minor character parts, and special mention to Amber Forbes who appears to be going above and beyond her role as backstage manager by getting to grips with a slithery cast member.

“Men Behaving Badly” is not modern day observational comedy. It is old fashioned sitcom stuff given a 21st century refresh by a superbly talented lead cast.

If you’re looking for an evening of pure entertainment, then it’s a fine place to be.