Chelmsford Theatre Workshop at the Old Court
Like Abigail and Godot, this title character never appears. A notoriously promiscuous gay man, he nonetheless affects the lives of each of his circle of friends, who gather for a flat-warming and two funerals.
John Mabey, assisted by Steve Holding Sutton, allows each actor to develop a character, in a strong, simple staging featuring a series of confessions and introspections.
Six fine performances from actors who match the diversity of the characters they take on.
Eric, the young odd job man, nicely captured by Alex Hilton [his jeans cut too low, though], seductively sharing his Walkman. Dean Hempstead, excellent in his unexpected breakdown, plays John, a sportsman run to seed, the “other widow” who would rather not have ended up with Guy's flat, or Guy's silent worship. Reg's partner is Daniel, seemingly all surface, but with telling glimpses of sincerity – Greg Whitehead [lovely to see him back on the Old Court boards]. Odd couple Bernie and Benny superbly sketched by Tony Ellis and Jesse Powis, often wickedly amusing - a boring suburbanite and a bus driver – but both unburden themselves in deeper moments. The most touching characterization, for me, is Simon Burrell's Guy. In his blush pink pullie, knitting a cover for his door sausage, everyone's confidant but no-one's lover - “the odd near miss ...” - a beautifully sustained performance.
Gary Patten's garden flat is well dressed [houseplants and LPs], though the lighting for the small hours scene at the end was oddly flat.
Kevin Elyot's play is a world away from the Seventies hedonism of The Boys in the Band or Torch Song. There is plenty of humour, some of it grim, but many tender moments on the cream leather sofa. And the shadow of AIDS hangs over all these relationships, as syphilis did in La Ronde, obliquely referenced in the text, which must surely have inspired its structure.