Review: Free and Proud *****

THEATRE

FREE & PROUD

Assembly George Square Studios

Aug 14-27

14:55

***** Five Stars

Hakeem is a physicist, in love with the wonder and the difficulty of science. His family is in Nigeria, but he is living in New York. He lives with his husband, Jeremy, who does a job he finds unsatisfying, but he writes poetry in his spare time.

Jeremy is in their flat, talking about it with almost a sense of wonder. Something terrible happens. We move back in time, over the relationship and we learn more about each character. Hakeem has a background which has instilled certain values in him, he has a desire to work hard and improve himself and he has certain rules which he applies to the relationship with Jeremy. You might say he is from an impoverished background but is value rich, whilst Jeremy is the reverse. Yet this might not be fair to Jeremy. We do not know about his family but he lacks the self assurance and self esteem Hakeem has.

We gradually learn of real problems in the relationship. Gay men are different from almost any other sexual persuasion. There can be few gay men who have not been excited by sex with strangers. Despite this, most gay men want love and stability. It can be difficult to square the circle, and of course this is a rich field for drama.

This play explores this challenge more intensely than any I have seen for a while. It excavates the consequences of this situation. We are very much with the characters here in their tears and their screams – and there are moments of humour and many humanising times.

Jeremy (Michael Gilbert) is subtly portrayed as someone less than happy with himself, nervously touching himself, almost unsure where next to put his body. Hakeem ( Faaiz Mbelizi) is more firm in posture and movement, and we are invited to admire his intellect, his passion and his love for family and for Jeremy. Both performances are of a very high standard. Director Peter Darney should be congratulated for what has been achieved here. Plus writer Charles Gershman has given us a play that will be talked about for some time and will provoke much useful discussion.

This is the kind of gay drama we need, with this depth. Drama which interrogates the way we live now, with our present freedoms and fears, our new potential and our old limitations.

I find it hard to praise this one too highly. It deserves to sell out and be seen elsewhere.

Tony Challis