Undetectable by Tom Wright. The King’s Head Theatre, Upper Street, Islington N1. 3*** William Russell

By Tom Wright.
The King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN to 6 April 2019.
Tues – Sat 8.45pm Mat Sun 4.45pm.
Runs 1hr 20mins No interval.
TICKETS: 0207 226 8561.
Review: William Russell 15 March.

A tale of indecision, HIV and love

Tom Wright and director Ricky Beadle Blair strike again with this tale of two young men, one a hunk on PrEP, the other HIV positive, who, after three months together decide tonight is the night to finally do it. Writer and director last surfaced at the Park earlier this year with My Dad’s Gap Year, for me, the most dispiriting play I had seen in a long time. That was about a father taking his gay teenage son to Thailand to lose his virginity, which he duly did to the prettiest Thai in sight, while Dad ended up with a Lady Boy befriended by Mummy when she came out to see what was going on. Dad was wasting money as son could have done it in London no bother so the whole exercise was pointless.
This one, getting its world premiere, is not quite as bad, and, to be fair, gets terrific above and beyond the call of duty performances from Freddie Hogan as body building dream boy Lex and Lewis Brown as Bradley, every bit as pretty in his own way, who has doubts about going ahead especially as Lex has no condoms and in spite of his own backpack being stuffed with them. They pair are very watchable, spend some of the time naked – one would in the circumstances – and manage to rise to the occasion without actually doing so. But they do talk and talk and talk both themselves and the audience into the ground. If this is about the intricate emotions, moral dilemmas and personal demons we all take to bed with us – as the publicity claims – forget it. It is one of those plays where people talk like real people do not talk. The pair have spent three months getting to know one another without sex, which is certainly an interesting proposition, but one does feel that having done that both – for different reasons – would have headed for the hills instead of deciding tonight is the night.
Lex: “When I’m anxious I focus on my core. You see all this good stuff? Deep beneath the top of the aesthetic layer? I think of it as the stability in life. I visualise the things I need: nutrition, rest, projects, people. I realign those and everything works more efficiently.”
At least Bradley tells him to “keep it real, babe.” But then – “I’ll get fierce with anyone who wants to generalise our communities, but there is no more fabulous contradiction than the fact we love to take our shirts off at any opportunity. All praise body dismorphia.”
Lex is on PrEp and thinks it all right for them to have sex, Bradley, being HIV positive has doubts – he is also black which complicates things even more. They talk, they role play, they bicker, take off and put on their clothes, and, in the end, they do it. That, however, happens after lights out. Those stars are for the actors by the way who really do deliver the goods with powerful performances to admire.

Bradley: Lewis Brown.
Lex: Freddie Hogan.

Director: Rikki Beadle-Blair.
Lighting Designer: Richard Lambert.
Sound Designer: Hollie Buhagiar.
Production Photographs: Nick Rutter.

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