White Bear Theatre
Reviewed – 30th April 2019
“Bower’s script, and indeed the show as a whole, are already in a pretty strong and exciting place”
Swimming is a common trope in the telling of gay stories. Think the Hampstead Men’s Pond in Alan Hollinghurst’s “The Line of Beauty”, David Hockney’s “Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool (1966)” and the pool-side antics in coming-of-age films from “Call Me By Your Name” to “Y Tu Mamá También”. Alex Bower’s memorable new play draws on this rich cultural heritage to create a gripping and probing hour of drama.
Dan (Andrew Hawley) has just said so long to girlfriend of three years Marianne (Harriet Green) and the two are fairly irreconcilable. She moves in with Dan’s best friend and trusty furniture-builder Ant (Jack Helsby) whilst Dan rekindles a long-forgotten desire for the male sex and starts dating Sam (Patrick Cavendish). Struggling with years of keeping in the closet, Dan begins to construct a new identity for himself – one free of the friends and girlfriends that have pigeon-holed him his whole life.
This run is described as an opportunity to “get the show on its feet” with intentions to develop it further, but Bower’s script, and indeed the show as a whole, are already in a pretty strong and exciting place. Bower has created four rich and detailed characters, and he asks some intriguing questions about how we approach the spectrum of sexuality. When Ant stumbles across Sam and Dan at the lido, Bower captures well the awkwardness of two sides of a personality colliding. Dan’s been straight his whole life, how can he suddenly decide he’s gay?
With just four stools and some neat shifts in lighting, Rebecca Loudon’s direction is reminiscent of Jamie Lloyd’s current work at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Minimal and sparse, the relationships between characters are crucial. Luckily Loudon has a excellent ensemble working together effortlessly.
Moving forward, work could be done to make these characters more like people with histories than mere “types”. Ant in particular feels well rounded and detailed, but Green and Cavendish are given a little less meat to chew on. I’m left contemplating the meaning of that title too. That aside, this is a promising new piece of work that ought to be seen even at this early stage of development.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by Alex Brenner
White Bear Theatre until 4th May
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: