Two Short Plays about Gays – The Hope Theatre

We laughed, we cried, we left The Hope Theatre with a strange inclination to go home and watch The Poseidon Adventure. It is rare that a show can combine the tongue-in-cheek humour of a drag show with the stark and uncomfortable revelations of a 17-year-old rent boy. Luckily, Two Short Plays about Gays hasn’t heard that it’s impossible.

In the first play we meet an unnamed young boy, stranded on the streets of London, with nothing but his pretty face and lithe body to help him get by. With little known about his past, all we know is that he has no-one to rely on. Narrating his early fumbles into city life is, well, himself. An older and (somewhat) wiser man, he jokes with the audience, and gives his younger self a bit of perspective. Not all of it welcome (no svelte youth wants to know how chubby he’ll get when he’s older). At times, this distant view can seem overly romantic. At first, his adventures in London are tinted with the rosy glow of hindsight, made brilliant by distance. However, as we move into the more unpleasant parts of his youth, the older point of view gives it a poignancy that perhaps would be impossible if only viewed through a single lens. It also allows for an array of characters to be brought in by the fabulous Gregory Ashton, who slips into the skins of others in such a way that we instantly love all of them, even the horrid ones. Which should be no surprise. Having enormous success at the Edinburgh Fringe, he is also known as Lesley Ross, the writer of this play and of numerous plays, songs and an audio musical book about a penguin. Sloping around the sidelines is the unfathomably beautiful face of Joseph Martin, a naive counterpoint to his older self.

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Our second play sees an older character, a drag queen haunted by the ghost of his mother, and their unresolved disputes. We shift between the stage, where a painful life is transported into a hilarious show, to the dressing room, where the truth of his past is revealed. Louise Jameson is stunning as his mother, managing to be funny, objectionable and pitiful, almost in the same breath. It’s possible that we veered into the overly dramatic at points, but perhaps, considering the context, this was understandable.

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The writing is wonderful. At times we are treated to words bordering on the poetic, while also given the harsher twang of a Methyr Tydfil drawl. The way the narratives are interspersed is deft and not too obvious, which means it avoids overt sentimentality. The strong script, along with music by James Williams, makes this play seem like a truly spectacular affair, even if we are only above a North London pub.

Captivating characters with raucous humour and a few showstoppers thrown in for good measure. A truly entertaining evening.

Two Short Plays about Gays – The Hope Theatre

★★★★★ “Captivating characters with raucous humour”

Guest Review by Sarah Tinsley

 

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