For a play long-listed for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award and dealing with issues surrounding domestic violence, Coitophobia is surprisingly easy-going stuff.
Joining two families re-establishing themselves after escaping a life of systematic abuse, playwright Maria Roberts' exploration of familial relationships and the changing importance of support networks, never really touches upon the fear, darkness and dispair that a violent home-life causes. Rather, we are presented with a rather standard domestic drama about sex, friendship and single-parenting.
Lifting the play above the parapet of mundanity are the performances of Freddie Machin and Allie Bell, who are both verging on spectacular. Machin's portrayal of transvestite, Tom, in particular, is truly captivating. Bell's solid, multi-character performance is also notable.
Unfortunately, Coitophobia is let down by a script that, at times, is so clumsy and jarring that you could be forgiven the occasional incredulous laugh. Thrown into the mix is the rather condescending implication that raising a child as a single parent will have them turn out either as a slightly deranged transvestite or, at best, loathsome arseholes. Additionally, the set is rather ill-equipped to deal with the production, while a couple of performances, in particular that of Kiney Baines, scream "stage-school" so badly it hurts.
On the whole, though, this is a rather accomplished, often enjoyable and easily likeable piece of theatre whose small budget and largely talented cast, in many ways, represent what the Fringe is all about.