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: The Boys in the Band, Park

“You show me a happy homosexual, and I’ll show you a gay corpse”

It’s been almost 20 years since the last major revival of Mart Crowley’s 1968 play The Boys in the Band, a piece of writing that pre-dated the Stonewall riots and gay rights movement and indeed helped to inspire them, so there’s no doubting the importance of the play in the theatrical canon, gay or otherwise. As a piece of drama though, it’s hard not to feel that time has caught up with it somewhat, even in Adam Penfold’s expertly cast production for the Park Theatre.

In his Manhattan apartment, Michael has gathered several of his friends to help celebrate the birthday of their mutual acquaintance Harold. His best laid plans are set awry by the arrival of an uninvited guest, Michael’s former college roommate Alan to whom he has never come out. Trying to hide this amount of gayness proves an impossibility, especially given the amount of alcohol being poured, paving the way for an evening of increasing bitterness and bitchiness with the commencement of the party games. Continue reading “Review: The Boys in the Band, Park”

Review: Don’t Smoke in Bed, Finborough

“It feels a little bit like we’re asked to be the interracial couple”

Both in their 30s and both professors of “obscure versified English”, Jamaican-American Richard and Irish-American Sheryl seem to have it made when they’re asked to take part in a series of ‘bedroom interviews’, the promise of a potential book deal luring them into agreement. Presuming their interracial relationship and their decision to start a family is the reason they’ve been scouted, they jump right into baring their souls to their webcam-based interviewer but soon discover that they’re not quite ready for the answers they’re about to reveal.

Aurin Squires’ Don’t Smoke in Bed is a thrillingly incisive look into what Avenue Q memorably labelled “the sensitive subject of race”. Richard and Sheryl pride themselves on not arguing, rather enjoying having “strong conversations”, though as they begin to delve into the detail of how their partnership works and crucially, expose the perceptions that each has about the way that racial politics – and indeed class – has or hasn’t impacted on their lives, their certainties are crumbled away as brutal honesty corrodes the bonds that had seemed so tight. Continue reading “Review: Don’t Smoke in Bed, Finborough”

DVD Review: Cinderella

“Perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take is to be seen as we really are”

Who knew what the world needed was a live-action version of Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh. It oughtn’t be as good as it is but somehow the fusion of Disney magic and folktale wonder comes together most effectively, thoroughly traditional in its outlook yet somehow still feeling fresh. Chris Weitz’s screenplay is based on Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon but both he and Branagh take lots of inspiration from the Disney version of the story too and the resulting confection is really rather bibbity-bobbity-beguiling.

There’s a cleverness too about what it does in spinning new details like giving us a reason that her step-family don’t recognise her at the ball and weaving much humour into the magic spells that get her to said ball. Ella herself is well pitched by Lily James, not quite too perfect to be true but still hugely appealing. It’s no wonder Richard Madden’s Prince Charming tumbles instantly for her (and she for him, those breeches…those boots!) and their chemistry is palpable, one can see why Branagh has cast them as Juliet and Romeo in his upcoming theatre residency in London.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Cinderella”