Reviewed – 1st October 2019
“a poignant look into modern gay relationships”
As the theatre lights dim, the couple in Rory Thomas-Howes’ A Partnership stumble in, tipsy from celebrating the birthday of Ally (Ben Hadfield) with his workmates at the pub. However, the pair are bickering rather than joyous as they start to unpack items into their new house from the boxes that litter the stage, provoked by an interaction between Zach (Rory Thomas-Howes) and a local at the pub. With an hour to go before Ally turns thirty, the couple’s conversation turns from superficial worries about Ally’s resistance to leaving his twenties to deeply intimate matters as it becomes clear their partnership is fragile and brittle. As their relationship is unboxed throughout the play, the overarching theme of Zach’s internalised homophobia becomes clear, where he is evidently struggling with the pressure from both the heteronormative world to have a perfect relationship with a clear future set out, and the modern gay man’s world where he perceives the main focus to be on sex, and monogamy is non-existent.
The play is presented as a straight one-hour dialogue between the two men in a tragi-comedy style, with no change in scene or staging. The comedic elements to the play were witty and quick, and Hadfield’s fast delivery brought life to the interaction between the couple. The piece also had an emotional depth owing to Thomas-Howes’ writing, depicting thoughts and emotions about internalised homophobia with precision and accuracy, likely due to the actor and writer’s own self-described queer identity. Although there was a good overall balance between the funny and the serious, the transition between the two was confusing, where the tone would go from moments of light-heartedness into seriousness frequently. This led at times to some lack of sincerity of the characters’ feelings and added a sense of melodrama to an otherwise believable story. That aside, the play was generally well directed by Josh Tucker.
Ally and Zach’s relationship did not feel completely realistic due to their differences in personality and an overt clash between Ally’s outgoing and “feminine” traits and Zach’s more reserved and “straight-acting” character. However, the expectations for gay men to behave as traditional couples with masculine and feminine partners is discussed throughout the story. Hadfield as Ally was a clear standout, giving a hilarious performance when the writing required and a stunningly captivating delivery during emotional scenes, whereas Thomas-Howes was less convincing as Zach, almost overacting at times. However, the performance otherwise provided a poignant look into modern gay relationships.
Reviewed by Philip Coatsworth
Photography by Nick Mauldin
Theatre503 until 5th October
Previously reviewed at this venue: