Sex With Strangers, which has opened at the Hampstead Theatre, is an intriguing modern-day love story. Starring Emilia Fox and Theo James, the play is an exploration of passion, desire and ambition.
Theo James making his stage debut
Theo James, who trained at Bristol Old Vic before making his name in Hollywood as Four in the Divergent franchise, makes his stage debut in Sex With Strangers. He plays a writer called Ethan who becomes a social media star after starting a salacious blog, which is then quickly turned into a bestselling book with a movie in the pipeline. It’s a compelling and nuanced portrayal of a man who is both manipulative and naïve, hell-bent on fame but slowing realising the cost of his “bad boy” persona.
Playwright Laura Eason has plenty to say about 21st century life and how our obsession with social media and oversharing impacts how we are perceived, how we behave and how we now interact with others. Laura is also a producer of the Emmy award-winning Netflix show House Of Cards
Under the direction of Peter Dubois, Ethan and Olivia (played by Emilia Fox) are divisive and occasionally unlikeable characters but their actions ring true and as their relationship and the story progresses you develop a greater understanding and empathy for their questionable motives.
Emilia Fox’s fiery portrayal of Olivia
When we meet Olivia she is a writer seemingly content with teetering on the edge of obscurity. Headstrong in her opinions but afraid of criticism, her confidence grows as she becomes drawn into the orbit of the charismatic Ethan. Emilia’s depiction is perfectly pitched and it remains ambiguous as to whether she is led or is leading her more successful but arguably less talented love interest.
Designer Jonathan Fensom creates two very distinct and believable worlds, from the warm and simplistic confines of the rural log cabin, to Olivia’s cosmopolitan confines; the change in scenery marks the growing complexity of the two’s relationship.
Photos by Manuel Harlan
Sex With Strangers plays at Hampstead Theatre until 4 March. Visit the venue’s website for tickets.