THE TWENTIETH CENTURY WAY
by Tom Jacobson.
Jermyn Street Theatre to 28 January 2017.
1hr 40 mins (no interval).
Review: Tom Aitken 9 January 2017
Definitely a must see
This is a demanding yet hugely enjoyable play. It is demanding partly because of the speed at which it is played. ‘Rapid fire’ would be an apt description of the exchanges between the two actors, but that’s only part of it.
We are plunged into life in Los Angeles at a time when police are trying to banish homosexuality from the city. The two actors play four roles but, in a way adding another complication, all four are homosexuals.
Two of them are actors awaiting an audition.
The other two are homosexuals who have agreed to work with the police in dealing with their kind. Nowadays, in the London Borough of Brent, the police are working to protect gays from the hostility of some of the borough’s citizens. Then, in Los Angeles, the intention was less cordial.
As the play proceeds we find that the two men we are watching are liable to switch persona in mid-sentence. I think that part of the purpose of this is to emphasize the bewilderment of people who are obliged to conceal their nature. As actors a certain amount of trust in each other can be assumed, but only when they are not in competition for one role, which is the case with these two.
So we have two actors playing four rôles in which they are in competition with each other as they conduct an assertion of their right to be what they are and to feel proud about what they consider themselves to have achieved.
Fraser Wall and James Sindall, graduates respectively of RADA and The American Academy of Dramatic Arts (New York) rise to the many challenges they face with resource and panache.
At one hour forty minutes this is quite a short play but, packed as it is with ideas and argument, it nevertheless seems even shorter. Play, direction (Marylynne Anderson-Cooper) and performances are abundantly worthy of the ovation they received.
How many plays are ‘must-sees’? This depends on all sorts of factors, but I suggest that this one comes closer to that category than most of those I have seen and enjoyed in the last few months.
(Tom Jacobson, I should mention, has written more than 70 plays which have been performed widely in America. We have, it would appear, plenty to look forward to.)
Fraser Wall & James Sindall
Director: Marylynne Anderson-Cooper
Production Designer, Hair and Make-Up: Joyce Rose, Anne Robustelli
Lighting: Peter Harrison
Sound: Charles Parry
Stage Manager: Caitlin Hargreaves