Old Red Lion Theatre
Reviewed – 7th March 2019
“filled to the brim with truth, emotion and wit”
Good ideas stick, great plays take time, and Tom Ratcliffe’s ‘Circa’, first seen in London two and a half years ago, has benefitted from having a long gestation period. Ratcliffe, together with director Andy Twyman, has constructed a nuanced, honest and touching story of one man’s journey through life, love, relationships, and sex.
From an insecure young man moving to London to broaden his artistic and sexual horizons, through the trails and tedium of middle-age and the quest for monogamy and a family, to an older man coming to grips with how technology has terribly altered his search for companionship, ‘Circa’ charts one man’s life through his relationships. Simultaneously intimate and epic, we are introduced to recurring characters, one-night-stands, rent boys and first loves, all linking together to show how past experiences inevitably press on present concerns.
To reveal more would spoil the journey. Ratcliffe has developed a wonderfully entertaining play that leaves on a poignant note. In the context of gay life, where is community to be found? Loneliness emerges as a key theme, and methods of finding love and sex remain illicit and clandestine in a play that places gay men’s lives in the context of a straight man’s world.
Three actors play our lead character in the three iterations of his life, and all five members of the ensemble play multiple roles throughout (with the exception of Jenna Fincken, sadly underused representing the protagonist’s only attempt at heterosexuality). The whole cast is on top form throughout, but more work is needed to physically differentiate one character from the next. Twyman’s direction keeps the story precise and clear, with Ted White’s sound and Luke W. Robson’s lighting working beautifully to express the passing of time and closing of scenes. Robson’s set, resembling the sort of thing you’d see in a contemporary art gallery, is a cool blank canvas for any situation to be projected onto.
Whilst last year’s ‘The Inheritance’ dealt with the legacy of gay history, ‘Circa’ addresses the legacy of one person’s past relationships. As a synecdoche for many gay men’s stories, Ratcliffe has it spot on. This play is filled to the brim with truth, emotion and wit. As entertaining as it is moving, ‘Circa’ is unmissable theatre for anyone interested in queer stories, and, indeed, anyone interested in love.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by Lidia Crisafulli
Old Red Lion Theatre until 30th March
Previously reviewed at this venue: