Originally published in Theatre & Performance Magazine
Oskar Brown wrote and stars in this two man play alongside fellow South African actor Nicholas Campbell. Three seemingly separate scenarios play out – one looking at two boys growing up together, another with a teacher and drama student and the final an estranged couple. As the play progresses, the scenarios interweave with each other and are linked by themes that tackle guilt, insecurities and prejudices surrounding homosexuality and relationships.
Geoffrey Hyland directs and makes good use of the small stage and allows the chemistry between the actors to really shines through. The set, whilst simple, is uncluttered – a black backdrop with minimal props allows the audience to focus in on the messages that are intrinsic to the text. The small space works in the production’s favour; drawing the audience’s attention into the emotionally charged scenes that unfold over the course of an hour.
The best pairing throughout the show was the teacher and the student – Brown as the teacher instructs Campbell with a resigned sadness that instantly makes us question what events happened in his past to result in such defeatism. Initially uninterested and bored, Campbell’s student becomes more engrossed in the lessons as you see clear progression and growth in his studies, whilst Brown slowly becomes alive again by imparting his wisdom on the young protégé. Even when Campbell is practicing his lesson piece, you are drawn to watching Brown’s reactions and expressions as his sullen mood slowly lifts in a lustful haze for the student’s eventual grasp on the rehearsed text.
By comparison, the two boys that explore their sexuality as they grow up seemed a bit stunted and emotionally shallow. Whilst to be expected (the boys have less life experience), there seemed to be missing a naïve innocence that the boys should have as they tackle emotionally mature and difficult topics in their childhood. As the boys grow up and discover more about sexuality, Campbell plays a more convincing alpha male plagued by self-doubt and fear that being perceived as homosexual was intrinsically negative and wrong. The final scene between in this scenario was powerful to watch but Campbell seemed to hold back in his anger – it felt a bit anti-climactic.
Overall, the play was an interesting interpretation on relationships in their different stages, but the writing was more powerful than the acting on this occasion. But as the run progresses there is great potential here.
King’s Head Theatre, London
Playing until 14th March 2015
Awarded 3 stars