by Roger Gellert
The Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED to 21 November.
Sun & Mon 7.30pm Mat Tues 2pm.
Runs 2 hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
Review: William Russell 30 October.
Set in an English public school in the 1950s Roger Gellert’s only play, first seen in 1958, now revived for the first time, is about the seduction of an innocent boy and the consequences. Kenneth Tynan said it was the most honest and informative play about homosexuality that had yet been performed in England and, although there have been other fine plays since, it still deserves to be up there with the best of them. Time has not diminished its power.
Park, the prudish and conceited head boy of the House is worried about friendships that are not right. Hallowes, the Housemaster less so in that he understands why boys form passionate friendships. Tully, the deputy head boy, an intellectually precocious young man who will argue any case is one of those Mungo is worried about, although he does not know his friend’s proclivities. Tully who argues for the sake of arguing, is having a fling with his fag,
Turner, a venal little horror for whom being gay is just a phase, the sexual pleasure of the moment, a source of favours, challenges the older boy to seduce Hamilton, an innocent new boy. The consequences are devastating.
The playing by the entire cast is splendid. Harley Viveash as Tully creates a charming, ruthless, convinced of his superiority predator,; Jack Archer as Hamilton manages to make clear that while seduced he was not destroyed. Hamilton faces up to what the future will bring, it is the confident, self assured, arrogant Tully who is shattered.
The play remains as fresh as it was in 1958 – maybe the public school setting and the hilarious, but dodging the issue talk about the facts of life the Housemaster delivers date it a bit, set it in a then rather than now context. It is, however, as relevant as today’s headlines. The seduction now would probably take place over an I pad or a smart phone rather than a reading of the Lady Anne scene from Richard 111, but no matter. Gripping and enthralling, the verdict of the time, still stands and it deserves an after life. Once again the Finborough has come up with lost theatrical treasure.
Hallowes: Simon Butteriss,
Park: Oliver Gully.
Turner: Jacques Miche.
Hamilton: Jack Archer.
Director: Christian Durham.
Designer: Tim McQuillen-Wright.
Lighting Designer: Jamie Platt.
Sound Designer: Gareth Evans.
Associate Director: Roxy Joy Cook.