Tag Archives: Geoff Aymer

GHBoy

GHBoy

★★★

Charing Cross Theatre

GHBoy

GHBoy

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

 


GHBoy

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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Apollo13

Apollo 13: The Dark Side Of The Moon

★★★★

Online

Apollo 13

Apollo 13: The Dark Side Of The Moon

Online via Original Theatre

Reviewed – 11th October 2020

★★★★

 

“a poignant and prescient story about our connections and divisions”

 

It’s a little bit mind-blowing to think that last year marked half a century since we first landed human beings on the moon, in technology less advanced than the laptop I’m currently typing this on. It really boggles the brain to think what a short space of time that is in the grand scheme of things, and how exponentially far we’ve come since then.

Or have we? That’s the question Apollo 13: The Dark Side of the Moon asks in this innovative online play from Original Theatre Online.

A mixture of transcripts and dramatic license by writer Torben Betts, Apollo 13 focuses on two different times: the mission itself that took place in 1970 with Fred Haise (Michael Salami), Jim Lovell (Christopher Harper), and Jack Swigert (Tom Chambers), and an interview in 2020 with Haise and Lovell (their 2020 selves are played by Geoff Aymer and Phillip Franks) reflecting on their experience. For those who don’t know or haven’t seen the Tom Hanks film, the Apollo 13 mission became famous after an unexpected fault jeopardises the lives of the astronauts and they along with NASA mission control (voiced by Jenna Augen with impeccable nuance) are forced to abort the moon landing and find a way to get home safely. It’s an inherently dramatic and tense story and Betts’ script knows exactly how to work with it. In using transcripts, it keeps a grounded authenticity to the situation unfolding, reinforcing that these were just real people trying to do a job as we initially see the mundanity of them flipping switches, making calculations, and finding the best way to sleep. It feels as though the fictional elements creep in more and more, building towards the 25 minute period where the ship went round the dark side of the moon, communications went down, and there are no transcripts available. Here, Betts fully flexes the play’s thesis, almost too on the nose: isolated in the midst of a crisis, are there parallels to be drawn between then and now?

It certainly feels like it. Confined and without a sense of control, tribalistic racial tensions begin to spill over between Haise and Swigert, illustrating clearly how little we’ve progressed in some aspects in fifty years, and how high pressure situations have the potential to expose both the best and worst in people.

Our present crisis has allowed Original Online to display stellar ingenuity in the way Apollo 13 has been produced: the actors were supplied green screens and equipment to film at home with provocative remote direction from Alastair Whatley and Charlotte Peters. It’s a testament to the actors’ dedication and generosity in their performances that it’s never even apparent they’re not in the same space, no doubt also thanks to Tristan Shepherd’s tight film direction and editing, driven by Sophie Cotton’s propulsive music.

Apollo 13 could have fairly easily been a dry and dusty retread of a story that many already know. This production capitalises on the context of its development to tell a poignant and prescient story about our connections and divisions.

 

Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by Michael Wharley

 

Original Theatre

Apollo 13: The Dark Side Of The Moon

Online via Original Theatre until 31st December

 

Previously reviewed by Ethan:
Four Play | ★★★ | Above The Stag | January 2020
The Guild | ★★★½ | The Vaults | January 2020
Far Away | ★★½ | Donmar Warehouse | February 2020
Republic | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Ryan Lane Will Be There Now In A Minute | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Big | | Network Theatre | March 2020
Stages | ★★★½ | Network Theatre | March 2020
Songs For A New World | ★★★ | Online | July 2020
Rose | ★★ | Online | September 2020
Entrée | ★★★★ | Online | September 2020

 

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