BOYS IN THE BAND, 4Star****, London, To 30 10

By Matt Crowley
4Stars ****

Park Theatre to 30 October 2016
9 Clifton Terrace, London N4 3JP
Tues – Sun 7.30pm. Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 2 hr 10 mins One Interval.

TICKETS: 020 7870 6876.

And on tour –
The Lowry, Salford – 3-6 November.
Theatre Royal, Brighton, 8-12 November.
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds 14-19 November.

Review: William Russell 4 October.

All boys together in a historic play.
Matt Crowley’s play has a secure place in theatrical history as the first piece of mainstream theatre to put a story about gay men on stage. It opened in New York in 1968 and ran for over 1000 performances. The London production followed shortly thereafter and eyes were duly opened.

This rather leaden production directed by Adam Penford, the first major revival here for over twenty years, shows that it remains an interesting enough evening of theatre even if not really remotely like the home lives of our own dear queens. These quivering, suffering lads are all New Yorkers. There were, whatever Mr Crowley may think, happy gay men even in 1968.

Very much a play of its time and place Boys in the Band holds up as one of those plays about a party which turns out to be a soul baring evening in hell. Rather than anybody worrying about Virginia Wolf, however, this is the world of Dorothy’s Friends long before Aids, one in which, apart from being in the closet, and not everybody was by any means, most problems could be resolved with a trip to the special clinic.

Ian Halford is very good as bitter and twisted Michael, the birthday party’s host, a clothes mad writer with a bitchy tongue in an unsatisfactory relationship with pragmatic Donald, a society drop out nicely played by Daniel Boys. The assorted guests turn out to consist of every stereotype gay man imaginable.

There is Emory (James Holmes on fire), effeminate and plain, hunky Larry ( Ben Mansfield) , who likes playing the field but really loves his uptight jealous schoolmaster partner Hank (Nathan Nolan), a once married man, and happy go lucky Bernard Greg Lockett), who is black and so doubly an outcast.

The birthday boy, Harold (Mark Gatiss), who arrives late, turns out to be a plain Jewish princess with a bad skin almost as bitter and twisted as Michael. Oddly Mr Gatiss makes surprising little impact in spite of sporting a particularly hideous head of black curls which, given he is the star name in the cast, is unfortunate although it does leave the field clear for Mr Halford, his real life husband, to go spectacularly to pieces. But Harold, in spite of the fact everyone seems to fear him, proves to be a pussy cat.

Into this shoal of looking for love gays comes Cowboy (Jack Derges) a very easy on the eye dim hustler Emory has purchased as his present for Harold, and uninvited Alan (John Hopkins), the allegedly straight guy Michael shared a room with at college. Alan is, of course, a closet queen with a bad marriage, which comes as no surprise. As the drink flows and the obligatory wise cracks are delivered, not all of them hitting home by the way, the party descends, after Michael insists on everyone playing a devastatingly awful game of truths and dares, into bloodstained chaos and far too much plain speaking.

By the way, Mr Penford might note that no hostess, let alone a gay one, would ever bring in a dish of lasagne hot from the oven and put it down on top of the polished dinner table.

Donald: Daniel Boys.
Cowboy: Jack Derges.
Harold: Mark Gatiss.
Michael: Ian Hallard.
Emory: James Holmes.
Alan: John Hopkins.
Bernard: Greg Lockett
Larry: Ben Mansfield.
Hank: Nathan Nolan.
Understudy: Paul Kendrick.

Director: Adam Penford.
Design: Rebecca Brower.
Lighting Design: Jack Weir.
Sound Design: James Nicholson.
Costume Supervisor: Ryan Walklett.
Fight Director: Rachel C Bown-Williams.

2016-10-05 15:09:05

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