A HARD RAIN
by Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper.
Above the Stag Arch 17 Miles Street SW8 1RZ To 30 March 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 6pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: William Russell 5 March.
A life underground.
The Stonewall riot in New York, June 1969, the spontaneous reaction of the customers when the police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, forms the background to this new play about the habitués of another gay underground bar in New York.
Run by a Mafia hit-man, the bar – the Inn was also run by the Mafia – is frequented by Ruby, Vietnam vet turned drag queen, a bitter man interested in the gay liberation movement developing among the city’s gay community.
He has a lover, a young, up-tight businessman, something in advertising or on Wall Street. To save Ruby from being arrested by Danny, the cop he has punched), and who has come to collect New York’s Finest’s hush money, the manageress Angie agrees to go out with him.
A young rent boy customer is collected by the Mafia manager, who uses him to deliver “messages”, the significance of which the kid does not understand. He thinks he has been given a job.
It is an interesting mix of characters and the drama works itself out satisfactorily, although one possibly needs a little more exposition about how things were then in America.
Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper have, however, created a convincing lost world in the days before homosexuality came out of the closet.
As Ruby, Michael Edwards gives a standout performance, although he could rein-in the volume. The chemistry between Ruby and Josh, his lover, is not really convincing – just why such an uptight guy should fall for someone so extravagant is never clear – but Oliver Lynes’ performance just about manages overcome the fact they do not make lovers one believes in.
As Angie, a single parent and every bit as much of an outcast as the men, Stephanie Willson is warmly sympathetic, Nigel Barber suitably repellent and nasty as the Mafia manager.Rhys Jennings makes Danny intriguingly ambivalent, and James El-Sharawy is touching as the hapless rent boy.
It adds up to a rewarding evening directed with a firm hand by Tricia Thorns. The cast are a marvel of discipline as they shift the scenery round endlessly.
Frank/Army official: Nigel Barber.
Ruby: Michael Edwards.
Jimmy: James El-Sharawy.
Josh/Army Official: Oliver Lynes.
Danny: Rhys Jennings.
Angie: Stephanie Willson.
Director: Tricia Thorns.
Designer: David Shields.
Lighting: Elliot Griggs.
Sound: James El-Sharawy.
Dialect coach: Marj McDaid.
Fight director: Toby Spearpoint.