Reviewed – 20th May 2019
“the play zips along with the next gag never more than a moment away”
With the preponderance of baggy sportswear on the streets, The Lion King set to be the summer blockbuster and the White House occupied by a smooth-talking sex pest, you could be forgiven for checking your calendar to check we haven’t slipped back into the 1990s.
It’s the start of this hopeful decade in which True Colours is set, a one-act play written and directed by Paul Stevens about a pair of laddy decorators. Ray Stanford (Paul Marlon) and Leon Goodwin (Jack Harding) are the sort of people you don’t see on the stage all too often, but they’re instantly recognisable characters – wise-cracking, wide-accented manual labourers that spend more time on leisurely tea breaks than they do applying a second layer to the doorframes. They both channel that unique brand of hyper-aggressive masculinity where you’re not entirely sure if they’re best friends or if they completely hate each other, ready to immediately jump down the other’s throat at a moment’s notice for misdemeanours as minor as reading a graphic novel or taking body-conditioning classes.
It’s a pretty simple set-up (design by Kala Sinton): two foldable camp chairs, a thermos flask, a couple of paintbrushes and a copy of The Sun brandished brilliantly at one point for a big laugh. The first half is spent shooting the proverbial about mixed-up orders at the caff, all with the chummy humour that’s in vogue with sitcoms at the moment, such as Mum, Lee and Dean, and Home. As the show goes on, however, their respective insecurities and latent ambitions gently fester and eventually bubble up to the surface. Of course, being blokes, the only thing they can’t talk about is their feelings. Both Marlon and Goodwin are spot-on at capturing the awkward way in which some men approach their emotions as if they’re some sort of inconvenience. Their unenthusiastic heart-to-hearts involve half-finished sentences, evaded eye contact and much shoe-shuffling, before one of them loses their rag at a harmless misinterpretation. The pair have developed a convincing chemistry between them, which veers into father-son territory at points. You’re willing them to just hug it out, but that’s not their style.
Clocking in at an hour, the play zips along with the next gag never more than a moment away and there’s certainly no worry of any of the audience reaching for a lazy ‘paint’ and ‘drying’ analogy. Setting it in 1993 doesn’t really add much to the equation, and without the Technotronic blaring out the speakers, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell otherwise. There’s even a mobile phone used at one point, which fans of pedantry will be more than happy to baulk at.
All in all though, Stevens has put his name to an original play that’s both touching and timely, bolstered by two understated performances from the leading pair. They may be handy when it comes to glossing a skirting board, but hopeless when it comes to admitting what they really want from life.
Reviewed by Joe Holyoake
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: