by Martin Sherman.
Tristan Bates Theatre 1A Tower Street Covent Garden WC2H 9NP To 30 November 2013.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 0207 240 6283.
Review: William Russell 7 November.
Stop, don’t pass by.
Andrew Keates’ production of Martin Sherman’s two-hander was first staged last year at the Finborough Theatre with different actors. It has made the transfer perfectly; the new leads could not be bettered.
Written in 1972, and first presented in New York two years later, it reached London in 1975 with Simon Callow as Toby, the gay artist who falls in love with Simon, an Olympic bronze medallist diver.
Sherman presents a totally different view of homosexual men to Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band, which had opened in London a few years earlier. That was all about brittle queens doing Bette Davis imitations over dry martinis in a chic apartment.
In Sherman’s play two ordinary young people fall in love, their sexuality a given rather than an issue. Artist Toby is a hypochondriac hysteric, due to leave for Paris when he is collected by Simon, a young man in town for a job interview as a sports broadcaster.
They make love, part after what looks like a one-night stand, but Simon, friendless, turns up at the wine shop where Toby works and they embark on an affair. The problem is, Toby is infected with hepatitis and in no time at all so is Simon. It being the kind of jaundice that is cured by bed rest, and American hospitals being expensive, they remain in Toby’s flat, letting nature take its course.
When they recover, Toby still wants to go to Paris, Simon to become a sports newscaster. The realities of life tear them apart – or perhaps not.
Rik Makarem is wonderfully twitchy and obsessive as Simon, and James Cartwright equally good as the slightly tarnished golden boy fresh from life with an older lover. This is the gay world of 1972 before Aids changed everything, when sex was simple.
The undeniably slight piece does not preach, and is firmly in the tradition of all those ‘odd couple’ plays and films which feature a lot in American theatre and cinema. Although nobody, regardless of their sex, keeps their socks on, let alone their underwear, when enjoying a night of passion.
Toby: Rik Makarem.
Simon: James Cartwright.
Director: Andrew Keates.
Designer: Philip Lindley.
Lighting: Jack Weir.
Sound: Fred Riding.
Composer: Matthew Strachan.
Costume: Philippa Batt.