theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall.(V53) 18.05
August 4th to 26th.(not 13th)
Even under the threat of dire punishment, it is only human to endeavor to be joyful. We are all by now well aware that it is just 50 years since male homosexual acts were partially de-criminalised in England and Wales. Here is a play both riotously funny and at moments serious based on a novel published before the 1967 Act. Michael Campbell’s novel was very popular and is set in a boys’ public school. A new Headmaster is determined to rid the school of the plague of perversion. His plans are variously subverted.
The novel has been superbly adapted by Glenn Chandler (creator of Taggart, plus many people will remember his Fringe production of Sandel.) Glenn has clearly given the cast their heads, and allowed them to show off their talents and virtuosity. Of special note is David Mullen, who plays the very different roles of camp Vicar and stern Headmaster, and who adapts to wholly different persons, body language and manner almost in the blink of an eye. (An “is that really the same guy?” moment.)
All the “boys” are delightfully enthusiastic in their roles. Joe Bence as Nicholas Allen is junior temptation personified, all secret messages and topless in the woods. Jonathan Blaydon as Peter Naylor is splendidly uninhibited, even happy to throw himself around the floor of the stage. Joshua Oakes-Rogers as Carleton, who takes gay love seriously, is impressively vulnerable. He even wins the attention of teacher Mr Ashley (Tom Lloyd) – cue an encounter that would still be controversial today.
The dark side is explored too. This was a time of much extravagant gay behaviour, but also a time when many lives were damaged or destroyed by legal strictures and legalised prejudice. The dark moments are brief, however, and mostly this is a joyous romp. I am tempted towards the old cliché of “this is one not to be missed.” Instead I will say that if you miss this you deserve a session in Mr Crabtree’s office.