Review: Open, VAULT Festival

Christopher Adams and Timothy Allsop’s Open at the VAULT Festival is exactly the kind of fresh, forward-thinking queer theatremaking we need more of

“Do I want my first kiss to be on the District Line?”

A real sense of genuine feeling ripples all the way through Open. Husbands in real life, co-stars on this stage, Christopher Adams and Timothy Allsop’s play explores their nine year relationship and the ways in which it has evolved from meeting on Guardian Soulmates through civil partnership to marriage, accompanied by their decision to be open to sleeping with other men.

Statistics are tossed out – apparently 40% of gay couples are in open relationships – but what makes Open work is the specificity of the story being told here. This is no advertorial for all gay men to sleep around, but rather Chris and Tim’s deeply personal history being laid out, a bracingly frank investigation into the reasons for their choices and exactly how it made them feel. Continue reading “Review: Open, VAULT Festival”

Review: Machinal, Almeida

Sophie Treadwell’s 1928 expressionist play Machinal receives an extraordinary production from Natalie Abrahami at the Almeida Theate

Your skin oughtn’t to curl – ought it – when he just comes near you- ought it? That’s wrong, ain’t it? You don’t get over that, do you – ever, do you or do you?

Sophie Treadwell’s 1928 play Machinal may be the story of one woman battling societal pressure but Natalie Abrahami’s production for the Almeida Theatre teases out a more elemental struggle, one which stretches over the majority of the twentieth century and by extension, even further.

The story is rooted in its ordinariness. Emily Berrington’s Young Woman gets by at a job she doesn’t like, marries the first guy who shows an interest, gives birth to a child she scarcely wants – expectations check check checked. But as she learns that she wants more, can want more, the weight of societal pressure comes to bear. Continue reading “Review: Machinal, Almeida”

Review: Look Back in Anger, Derby Theatre

“What kind of man are you?”

Where else to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Look Back in Anger than in the city where it is set, and in the very theatre where the marriage between John Osborne and Pamela Lane came under such strain as to inspire the turbulence of the play that, as conventional wisdom would have it, changed the face of British theatre. Recently, the play has been rarely seen, suffering from the very thing that brought its fame – ever-evolving theatrical tastes – but Sarah Brigham’s production makes it feel startlingly pertinent.

The archetypal angry young man, decidedly working class but university educated Jimmy Porter finds himself raging against every aspect of his life in 1956 Derby. The huge social gulf that marks his marriage to the upper middle class Alison, her haughty friend Helena who’s coming to stay, the cramped flat which they share with pal Cliff and the politics they debate ferociously, the music on the radio that isn’t his beloved jazz… And as his frustrations take on an ever more vicious turn, a love triangle emerges that shatters what fragile peace there is. Continue reading “Review: Look Back in Anger, Derby Theatre”

Review: Unrelated, Jermyn Street

“You think I can trust women?”

After three weeks on holiday, my theatregoing restarted with a gentle introduction with Unrelated, presented as part of the Summer Shorts Season at the Jermyn Street Theatre, where material is performed and tried out with a view to developing shows for potential full runs. Unrelated is a four-hander by Dan Horrigan, an excoriating attack on middle class attitudes and prejudices and the dangers inherent in personal desires, whether in is stifling them to please others or pursuing them with wild abandon.

The story is told through two pairings, Martin arrives at a classy prostitute’s Jean’s place with a view to becoming one of her regulars but it soon emerges that all is not as it seems and separately, his wife Annie is engaged in a conversation with journalist Rachel as she comes to terms with the actions of her husband: the action flits between the two developing relationships throughout as we come ever closer to the truth about what has happened and who these people really are. Continue reading “Review: Unrelated, Jermyn Street”