“Adults”, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Traverse Theatre – Traverse 1
10:00, 13:00, 16:00, 19:00, 22:00
1 hour 20 minutes
Group: Traverse Theatre Company
To 27th August (not 21st)

16 August 2023
Maggie Rose in Edinburgh


Glasgow-based Kieran Hurley works with equal facility across film, TV and theatre. His much awaited new play, Adults (the award-winning Mouthpiece opened at Traverse in 2018) gets off to a raucous start, worthy of a Brian Rix piece in the Whitehall Farce series with shades of Joe Orton.  

In a plushly decorated contemporary bedsit, a young woman, long blonde hair and sexily dressed, shouts and squirts a raspberry drink all over a soberly dressed middle-aged man, accusing him of barging in on her privacy. 

It soon transpires that this is a brothel which Zara runs as a co-op together with other sex workers who each have a share in the business. The man, Iain, unbeknown to him at first, taught English to Zara at secondary school. For the first time, or at least that is what Iain claims, because, “I’m not like all the rest”, he has decided to pay for sex with a young male prostitute. There are more surprises, as sex worker Jay rushes in pushing a pram with a crying baby. Due to lack of money, he is having to multitask and has brought his little girl to work with him. 

Jay’s merging of the private and public spheres disgusts and embarrasses Iain. Through the characters, Hurley explores the very different attitudes to sex, prostitution and life style of two generations: Zara and Jay consider sex as just a well-paid job in a society which has given them few opportunities, while Iain has felt gratified and secure in his steady job as a teacher until this middle-age crisis.  

Iain and Zara, though, do share a fear that somebody in their family will find out about what they are up to: a wife in Iain’s case, a father in Zara’s. The perhaps too facile ending, as Jay posts photos of the sexual encounter with his client on social media, means that all their friends and followers find out. The excellent cast of three is directed with flair by Roxana Silbert who skillfully manages the mix of comedy and farce with no seams showing and with quieter moments of introspection.