by Shaun Kitchener
Directed by James Callàs Ball
Kings Head Theatre – until 21 August
The gay attitude to monogamy isn’t particularly original dramatic fodder, but Shaun Kitchener’s engaging comedy of bad manners feels truly fresh in at least one way: he has created a life-loving, fragile but fun gender fluid character called Parker (winningly played by Matt Greenwood) and not made them the sidekick, the “you go, gurrrl” best friend, but instead placed them right at the epicentre of some pretty sticky sexual/social shenanigans. It’s never clear whether or not Parker is a master manipulator which in turn imparts a potent dose of extra interest into what is an eminently watchable, if not otherwise particularly original, script, the centrepiece of the Kings Head 2021 Queer Festival.
Parker and their sexy, sullen-at-first boyfriend Jamie (Imran Adams) are moving into a house share with uptight Taylor and friendly Riley (Jordan Laviniere and Chris Jenkins convincingly conveying the dynamics of a couple who have been together a decade), and things take a turn for the comic when Parker excitedly recognises Riley, now a successful insurance broker, as a former boy band member. If the plot that follows doesn’t exactly surprise, the relationship breakdowns sort-of do, to the point of slightly straining credulity. The characters are contemporary and crisply drawn.
James Callàs Ball’s production mines Kitchener’s text for all it’s comedy, pathos and slight shock value, and it is very well acted. Jenkins in particular does superb work as the fundamentally decent Riley, and impressively, affectingly charts his descent into disillusionment and fury. Adams’s Jamie stays strangely unknowable but entirely plausible, and amusingly contrasts with the judgemental but fascinated-despite-himself Taylor of Laviniere who, at least at first, has a lot of trouble getting his head around the sexually open nature of his new lodgers’ relationship. Greenwood gives Parker a brittle, vital edge that hints at untold reserves of hurt but also strength, and a slight tang of danger.
All That may not be a modern gay classic, but it’s an enjoyable, thought-provoking slice of Queer life with a whiff of authenticity and a spiky wit that make it well worth ninety minutes of your time.