There are times when one wishes one could have liked a production more and this is one such occasion. But director Philip Wilson and a hard working cast somehow never bring this version of Isherwood’s novel fully to life – it is not a patch on the 2009 film by Tom Ford with Colin Firth, then in his eye candy prime, as George, the university tutor in California on what appears to be his deathbed looking back at his life, remembering his lover killed in a motor accident, having supper with a woman friend and a tantalising encounter with one of his students. Firth won a Bafta for his performance and an Oscar nomination. Theo Fraser Steele delivers a sound enough performance but fails to make one care about George, an ex pat Englishman adrift in Santa Monica and lost without his lover. It was, of course, a friendship which was never explained to the world and certainly not to his dead lover’s family. The time is 1962 when things were very different from today. There are crisp cameos from Phoebe Pryce and Freddie Gaminara as the Strunks, George’s awful neighbours, among a host of characters, and Olivia Darnley conjures up the sad friend Charley with whom George regularly dines very well indeed. There is also an impressive professional debut by Miles Molan as Kenny, the student whose interest in George is ambivalent to say the least – we see them in class, Kenny turns up in what is clearly a gay bar, the pair go skinny dipping and back to George’s flat where he spends the night, George having made clear if he wants somewhere to take his girlfriend he has a spare guest room. Molan catches the boy’s sexual ambiguity perfectly – he is tempted but maybe he will resist. Ford’ film was beautifully shot and Firth had a wardrobe to die for as well as delivering one of his best performances all of which contributed to it working. But clever though the staging is, hard though everyone works one never really gets involved in George’s death bed thoughts and the final moments, which ought to be moving, are really more moments of relief that the evening has come to an end. It is all competent enough, but never moves one as does the novel.
Jim, Kenny Potter: Miles Molan.
George: Theo Fraser Steele.
Mrs Strunk and others: Phoebe Price.
Mr Strunk and others: Freddie Gaminara.
Charley: Olivia Darnley.
Director: Philip Wilson.
Set & Costume Design: Caitlin Abbot.
Lighting Designer: Peter Harrison.
Sound Designer & Composer: Beth Duke.
Movement Director: Natasha Harrison.
Costume Supervisor: Jacqueline Barker.