Sunday, 18 February 2018

Strangers In Between

Wil King and Guy Simon in Strangers in Between 

Part of the Mardi Gras festival this play by Tommy Murphy as beautifully directed by Daniel Lammin showcases an extraordinary cast .
Tommy Murphy's gay coming-of-age play was written over ten years ago , and before perhaps his best known work Holding the Man.His most recent play is Mark Colvin’s Kidney which premiered last year. Strangers in Between has recently been revived in London and although much has changed since the play's premiere, it is still extremely relevant reminding us of the major  challenges and harassment that can be experienced by LBGTI youth . It is a delightful mix of wisdom and naivety not often seen in portrayals of gay life.  
The minimalist set design by Abbie-Lea Hough consists of plain walls , a glittering nightclub like silver fringed curtain and a bathtub. Lighting design by Rob Sowinski is most atmospheric and effective.
Strangers in Between follows Shane (Wil King), a naïve young man who has fled to Sydney from a rural town , away from his family’s rejection and the threat of homophobic violence , and ended up in King’s Cross. Shane discovers a new totally different world where he is free and feels safe and accepted .
In Kings Cross, Shane, naïve , edgy and impractical , encounters two men – Peter and Will-  who will mentor and look after him ( how to use the laundromat , where to buy coathangers and what sort of wine chardonnay is for example , let alone how to use the till and organise change at the bottleshop where he has a job) .
It is a splendid ‘three- hander’  tremendously acted ,which is vibrant very poignant and moving and with some witty dialogue. The characters have great depth and there are unexpected twists.

Shane encounters the handsome , but emotionally rather icy and aloof  young Will, ( Guy Simon) , a work colleague of  his and from whom Shane catches a sexually transmitted disease.
We also meet the older Peter, ( Simon Burke) who is kind , generous , accomplished , sardonically witty and he avuncularly decides to look after Shane. We see Peter’s compassion and yet fragile vulnerability. Burke is splendid in the role and just when one begins to question his motives and actions Burke uncovers a sensitivity created by a past of hidden regret and ache in a beautifully nuanced , elegant performance .
The tone of the second half is darker as Shane has to confront his harsh , rigid , homophobic , vicious brother Ben , insistently menacing , their shared fractured past and his medical condition. The simple addition of a red checked shirt delineates the difference between Will and Ben and Guy Simon is terrific as both .
Will King as Shane shines – he is endearing , puppyishly energetic and enthusiastic , combines apprehension and invigorating wide eyed innocence  , boyishly charming , sixteen claiming to be  nineteen and one minute asking about refrigerating honey and the next most awkward , embarrassing , intimate ,questions about sex all with a desire for life and experience that is so typical of adolescence. The scenes between Shane and Peter are very moving .
Wild funny and tender this is a magnificent production that captures the search for belonging and the story remains relevant and sparkling.
Running time – 2 hours including interval
Strangers In Between by Tommy Murphy is at the Reginald  at the Seymour Centre 14February  - 2 March 2018

Director: Daniel Lammin
Producer: Cameron Lukey
Co-Producer: Andy Johnston
Cast  Simon Burke  Wil King and Guy Simon

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