Tag Archives: Aryana Ramkhalawon




Charing Cross Theatre



Charing Cross Theatre

Reviewed – 7th December 2020



“The production’s plot and script is unfortunately rather heavy-handed at times”


GHBoy, directed by John Pashley and produced by James Quaife, follows the story of Robert (Jimmy Essex), a 35-year-old gay man trapped in a pattern of substance abuse and infidelity. When his boyfriend Sergi (Marc Bosch) proposes unexpectedly, Robert is compelled to turn back to his old ways, ignoring the advice of his best friend Jasminder (Aryana Ramkhalawon) and his mother Debbie (Nicola Sloane). Through attending sessions with the art therapist Simon (Devesh Kishore), Robert explores his past and begins to uncover a devastating truth buried in his unconscious.

The play’s title is a reference to GHB, a drug popular in the party scene and an old favourite of our lead and his on-and-off lovers (Sylvester Akinrolabu). However, GHB is also known as ‘date rape drug’ as it can render its takers unconscious in large doses. The use of GHB for such wicked means was thrust into the spotlight in 2016 when a man named Stephen Port was convicted of raping and murdering at least four gay and bisexual men after slipping them the drug at his flat. GHBOY takes inspiration from this infamous case with the inclusion its own serial killer, Benjamin (Geoff Aymer), who appears in several dream sequences.

The play’s strengths lie with its supporting cast. Akinrolabu is particularly strong in his numerous roles and Aymer is wonderfully menacing as the show’s murderer. Sloane also did well to step into her role with less than half a day’s notice after an accident involving the original cast member, Buffy Davis.

The production’s plot and script (Paul Harvard) is unfortunately rather heavy-handed at times. The show bounces between a plethora of themes ranging from substance abuse, AIDS, and male prostitution to familial death, murder, and sexual assault, and never really settles on any one topic for too long. For example, Robert confesses in an argument with Sergi that he is HIV+ but his positive status is never addressed again after this. The audience is also suddenly made aware that Robert’s father recently died though the impact of this on his life is not explored or shown consequently outside of this one scene. These themes are all very interesting and were worthy of further exploration. The result of this neglection is that when Robert’s repressed memory is revealed at the play’s end, it just joins another long line of issues and complexes.

The art therapy studio serves as the stage’s backdrop with easels and painting supplies strewn across shelves and the floor (Bettina John). Plastic buckets, two small ladders, and a rectangular slab are repositioned between scenes to make the required furniture, whether that be a bed, a table, or a seat.

There are numerous scenes which focus on the artistic and creative process – such as when Robert and his mother paint the interior of their family home – yet actual paint does not feature until the very final scenes. Though understandably messy, it would have been great to see the act of painting taking place, especially in one scene where Robert and Simon admire the former’s work and triumphantly hold up a disappointing blank piece of paper to the audience.

GHBoy touches on a lot of very important modern and poignant issues but does not spend enough time on any for satisfactory exploration. If this production were to establish a clearer message throughout, it could be a very powerful piece of theatre.



Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Bettina John



Charing Cross Theatre until 20th December


Last shows reviewed at this venue:
Violet | ★★ | January 2019
Amour | ★★★★ | May 2019
Queen Of The Mist | ★★★★ | August 2019
Soho Cinders | ★★★★ | October 2019


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The Funeral Director – 5 Stars

The Funeral Director

The Funeral Director

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 2nd November 2018


“The play illustrates the beauty of complexity; of embracing nuance rather than shying away from it”


In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favour of Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop’s decision to refuse service for a same-sex couple, just a month before Iman Quereshi was announced as the winner of Papatango’s 10th Anniversary New Writing Prize with The Funeral Director. Justice Kennedy summarised that ‘Religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression’, though the court did not provide a lasting precedent for religious exemptions for businesses over clients’ sexual orientations. With The Funeral Director, Quereshi defiantly resists such deferral of responsibility. While courts wrangle and tabloids simplify, art rises. What emerges is a triumphant piece of theatre, which, despite its wonderfully stubborn insistence on complete humanisation, retains a deftness to its powerful LGBTQ storyline.

We begin with Ayesha (Aryana Ramkhalawon) and her husband Zeyd (Maanuv Thiara). Stuck in a relatively unspectacular (but not unloving) marriage, the pair manage Ayesha’s family business: an Islamic funeral home. However, when Tom (Tom Morley) arrives with a seemingly simple request — for them to provide a dignified service for his late boyfriend, their refusal leads to cultural and religious disarray. When Ayesha’s childhood friend-turned-lawyer Janey (Jessica Clark) returns to care for her own mother, the incident’s ramifications expand further. The play becomes an exploration of modern British identity and perception. Clark’s warmly charismatic Janey represents an increasingly secularised London elite: professional, liberal, firm, but fiercely inclusive and just. Her condescension towards the ‘backwards people’ of her hometown crumbles so as not to create an overpowering division of ‘us and them’ — incidentally, the racialised dynamic Zeyd fears from the British media.

This is the play’s most complex and successful negotiation. In creating Zeyd as a genuinely caring and pragmatic character, director Hannah Hauer King avoids a descent into generalisation. His homophobia is condemnable from the outset, but his dilemma embodies the encroachment of community pressure upon personal belief — forces managed with ease by the constantly endearing Thiara. He would love his own child regardless of its sexuality, but he cannot face the wider fallout from the Muslim community. Although this selectivity is hardly a foundation for sincere tolerance, it allows the play to develop the ideas of personal
spirituality and ideological emancipation which we hope eventually touch Zeyd too: a loving Allah would not want Muslims to suffer persecution owing to their sexuality and loves all, Ayesha explains at the close.

Again though, the play is woven with a precision which rightly champions the voices of its queer characters. Morley’s anguish as Tom prompts Ayesha’s transformation, but it is his boyfriend’s faith who provides the reasoning. Even in absence, his power is devastating, embodying the strength of queer Muslims while symbolising trauma’s potential results in the fight for existence. The play illustrates the beauty of complexity; of embracing nuance rather than shying away from it. Queer intersectionality’s very foundations within British society are questioned and embraced under the lights of Southwark Playhouse. The result is mesmerising.


Reviewed by Ravi Ghosh

Photography by The Other Richard


The Funeral Director

Southwark Playhouse until 24th November


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Bananaman | ★★★ | January 2018
Pippin | ★★★★ | February 2018
Old Fools | ★★★★★ | March 2018
The Country Wife | ★★★ | April 2018
Confidence | ★★ | May 2018
The Rink | ★★★★ | May 2018
Why is the Sky Blue? | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Wasted | ★★★ | September 2018
The Sweet Science of Bruising | ★★★★ | October 2018
The Trench | ★★★ | October 2018


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