The latest play from 5 Pound theatre is an odd but ultimately satisfying offering. Kiss Them All Soundly, which advertises itself as an exploration of narrative using fairy tales, definitely references fairy tales, but the story itself doesn’t rely upon it as much as one might initially suppose.
The play begins with three separate scenarios; an interview for a marketing position, a creepy old man harassing a schoolgirl waiting for the bus, and a couple at home whose ‘happiness’ is being fractured. Some of these characters are immediately unlikeable, and part of the beauty of Kiss Them All Soundly is its ability to slowly make them endearing. The creepy old guy gradually becomes less alarming, and the arrogant interviewer’s behaviour is revealed to be premised on tragedy rather than a mere sense of entitlement.
Simple Simon, Mary Had A Little Lamb and Georgie Porgie are the inspiration for the three stories, yet plot developments are by no means limited to a simple retelling of the originals. Complexity is added by the relationship between the three stories; they are slowly woven together throughout by virtue of obvious and more subtle narrative hints. At times the references to the fairy tales are clunky, but overall the allusions lend the play a strong grounding and allow for enhanced engagement with thematic developments.
The cast of Kiss Them All Soundly is relatively small, and the transition between characters is occasionally laboured. Whilst the man at the bus stop is clearly different to the man being interviewed, other characters suffer from similar accents and unclearly defined roles.
Kiss Them All Soundly ultimately merges the traditional and modern adroitly, providing a fabled context for modern affairs.