Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose (V24)
July 31st to August 26th (not 12th) 14.45
⭐⭐⭐ (3 stars)
This is a finely acted two-hander which does, however, raise some questions. The action occurs in real time, leading up to the time, midnight, when one of the two becomes thirty. Ally, played by Ben Hadfield with a nervous energy and vulnerability which one can only warm to, is treating his birthday as something very significant. With Rory Thomas-Howes as his partner of some years, Zach, we see a person who is putting on some show of strength, to the extent of having struck a man whom Zach feels insulted Ally just before the action starts. This is perhaps the more vulnerable person, someone still feeling his way to finding out who he really is, and buttressing himself with firm opinions meanwhile.
At such a time, events may move thick and fast, and people may say and do things they regret, and the depth of connection between the partners may make for rapid forgiveness, but the swings and roundabouts here were difficult to believe. A large number of serious issues were raised, but there was not time for the characters to give them much consideration. We moved on. As the play develops, it becomes ever more clear how unaccepting of his true nature Zach is.
The performers give us a real impression of the emotional confusion caused by doubting the basis of the central relationship of their lives. The question which the publicity said was raised here was, can two men maintain a monogamous relationship in today’s London? I am not sure that the London is relevant. It was perhaps more, can two men maintain a deep and lasting relationship when, as so often, they optimistically enter into it with little insight into each other or indeed into themselves?
The cast here do genuinely involve us in the turmoil of the hour in which the play happens, and show us the degree of confusion experienced by each man. Maybe the play could be expanded to give more consideration to the many issues raised. The ending is very appropriate.