by E V Crowe.
Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Upstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 22 December 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3.30pm.
Captioned 19 Dec.
Post-show Talk 18 Dec.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS 020 7565 5000.
Review: Carole Woddis 10 December.
Terrific performance at heart of searching play.
You have to marvel at the infinite varieties of Royal Court Upstairs theatre designers. Sometimes it’s a conventional, front-on, stacked seating; sometimes theatre in the round. For E V Crowe’s intimate, hermetic four-hander, it’s an ultra-modern traverse interior.
Crowe was nominated for a Most Promising Playwright award barely a couple of years ago with her debut play, Kin.
Hero provides solid evidence that was no one-off. It’s a remarkable piece, a buzzy, edgy exploration of jealousy, karma, gay-bashing, and much else besides, built around the very topical issue of gay adoption.
Joe and our hero Danny, a primary school teacher, are attempting to adopt a child. Simultaneously, Danny’s colleague Jamie and his wife Lisa are trying for a child by IVF.
On one level, you could read Hero as a quizzical look at parenting and the strains and tensions it evokes. Both couples are beginning to buckle under the strain. But Crowe chooses to zoom in on the still-prevalent taboo of being gay, looking at it from at least four different standpoints: Danny’s open upbeat approach, his partner Joe’s cautious, convention dominated view, Lisa’s acceptance and, critically, Jamie’s homophobic terror.
Whether or not you buy into Crowe’s karmic suggestion of life being the product of our own desires and fears, of how we tend to draw events to ourselves, her sharp rat-a-tat dialogue with Jeremy Herrin’s taut direction and Daniel Mays’ terrifying Jamie produce a terrific, enthralling two hours.
Mays, one our most brilliantly dangerous actors, reminiscent of a young Jonathan Pryce, gives us a portrait of masculinity in crisis. His Jamie teeters on the brink of breakdown induced by Danny’s idolatrous status at school but, more importantly, his calm contentment in his own homosexual identity. See how Jamie suddenly exudes `manliness’ stroking his wife’s pregnant stomach – an act of masculine reassurance as much as fatherly pride.
If Danny – beautifully played by Liam Garrigan – is almost too good to be true, Mays’ Jamie is as definitive and convincing a portrait of prejudice as we’re likely to see. It should be seen the length and breadth of the land.
Danny: Liam Garrigan.
Joe: Tim Steed.
Jamie: Daniel Mays.
Lisa: Susannah Wise.
Director: Jeremy Herrin.
Designer: Mike Britton.
Lighting: Rick Fisher.
Sound: Ian Dickinson for Autograph.
Assistant director: Rosemary McKenna.
Hero was first performed at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs on 23 November 2012 as part of the Royal Court’s Jerwood New Playwrights programme, supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.