I HEART PETERBOROUGH
by Joel Horwood.
Soho Theatre (Soho Upstairs) 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE To 20 October 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.15pm Mat 20 Oct 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7478 0100.
Review: Martin Franks 10 October.
Beautifully written, directed and performed.
It’s no wonder this play comes to Soho with rave reviews and star ratings from top broadsheets who caught it during its Edinburgh run. I’ve missed Joel Horwood’s previous work but I’m going to try not to miss any more.
This two-hander is a tour-de-force of the acting craft, with Milo Twomey’s sensitively camp performance of the central character, Lulu, played around with brilliantly pitched diversity of character by Jay Taylor. What Milo and Joel achieve in Lulu is what reflective camp gay coming-of-age tales often miss – a complexity, layering and truth.
And you’d have thought that skittering from character to character, Jay would provide a shallow foil, but he creates instant character with surprising depth and resonance. Then he tops it all in creating his stunning main serio-comic character, Lulu’s son Stephen, renamed Hew.
But of course none of this would be possible without the bedrock of Horwood’s elegant, clever script and his knowledgeable direction. He drops in poetic phrases such as “love that feels like doing somersaults” or “we take over the town square and fill it with anger” that feel genuine for the characters.
And here’s the skill; he creates a play based entirely in an apparently soulless place like Peterborough with a pretty doomed and shallow group of characters. But he elevates it to true drama, giving the work a lyrical eternity and global resonance. I kept thinking Tennessee Williams.
It’s not perfect. 70 minutes is too short to explore this range of issues. There is indulgence in the ‘escape route’ comedy at times where there should have been the confidence to dive deeper into the emotion; and the end goes on too long. But these are quibbles. I cared deeply and wanted to know more. A fine piece of short theatre.
Lulu: Milo Twomey.
Hew/others: Jay Taylor.
Director: Joel Horwood.
Designer: Amy Jane Cook.
Lighting: Penny Griffin.
Assistant director: Chris Hallam.
Produced by Eastern Angle in association with Key Theatre Peterborough.