by Martin Sherman.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 25 September 2012.
Sun-Mon 7.30pm Mat Tue 2pm.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 September.
Life-cycle of a relationship beautifully plotted.
Framed by Le Tourbillon, the ‘whirlwind’ song Jeanne Moreau sings in Francis Truffaut’s Jules et Jim, Americans Toby and Simon strike up a friendship. They meet watching the film, and a record of the song is a parting gift.
Between times they go through agony together – the agony of illness, which passes like their love in the pre-AIDS days of Martin Sherman’s 1972 play (first seen fully-dressed in a 1975 UK Gay Sweatshop production). It’s a love of opposites, determined Simon the diver applying for radio sports reporter jobs and artist Toby, homebound by near-hypochondria (the doctor recognises his voice on the ‘phone before a single symptom’s mentioned).
Their difference is pinpointed early when Simon, used to such things from the sea-floor, removes a splinter from Toby’s foot, acquired during the adventurous practice of crossing his room in bare feet. Yet it’s Toby who ends up travelling, painfully delaying the parting moment to the apparent frustration of an offstage cab-driver and leaving more than one treasured part of his life behind.
Andrew Keates rediscovers this early Sherman work for the British stage, and a fine job he makes of it, with well-contrasted performances by Alex Felton as the tall, floppy-haired Simon, whose active life’s imaginable from moments of restlessness at being confined to this room, and part of the time to bed, and Steven Webb’s Toby, indecisive and trudging wearily through a dead-end job while combating fate’s slings and arrows in his attempts to become recognised as an artist, moments of half-said words or ironic glances contrasting Felton’s directness.
Eventually their time together has its kind-of parallels with the relationships in Truffaut’s film. They are genuine, passionate at heart but subject to the waywardness of life. For its time the play was bold in its very meekness – treating a same-sex relationship like any other. Gay Theatre’s moved on but while it might be part of the development of a theatre movement, in its gentle, wry honesty, Sherman’s play hasn’t been left behind. And certainly not in Keates’ Finborough production, where humour and reflection arise naturally from the two strong performances.
Toby: Steven Webb.
Simon: Alex Felton.
Director: Andrew Keates.
Designer: Philip Lindley.
Lighting: Miguel Vicente.
Sound: Fred Riding.
Costume: Philippa Batt.
Assistant director: Jack Ryder.