Peter Gill, playwright and theatre director
Young Gay Brits
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Young Gay Brits

Wall Street Journal, February 12, 1999

200 Liberty Street, New York,NY,10281 (Fax 212-416-2658 ) (E-MAIL: By PAUL LEVY.

London – . . . At the Almeida (until Feb. 20) is Peter Gill's new play "Certain Young Men." The critics here have, on the one hand, condemned the tone of this play as just another instance of gay self-loathing; but they have, on the other hand, been too impressed by the performances to dismiss the piece. It features eight youngish men, ranging from baby-faced to balding, every one of whom acquits himself with either wit or grace, and sometimes both.

Sean Chapman is Robert, who comes on in the second half as the bereaved man who's achieved wisdom. Danny Dyer is the youngest, Terry, a self- mutilator who is not quite – or rather not yet – a rent boy.  Andrew Lancel is Andrew, a lower-middle class man who leaves Tony (Peter Sullivan), who has a similar background and tastes. Jeremy Northam gives an outstanding performance as David, an anguished doctor, in love with Christopher (Andre Woodall), a middle-class man who chooses to work as a garage mechanic. Likewise Michael (John Light) is a student who under-achieves by working as a hospital aide while carrying on a desultory affair with a beautiful Glasgow waif, Stewart (Alec Newman).

The characters' stories unfold on a nearly bare stage without walls or proscenium. Nathalie Gibbs's non-set consists of stacks of books (recognizable as Proust), a bottle of Scotch, some beer, and a few piles of junk. When the actors are not on, they sit in chairs at the back of the stage and listen. The dialogue they are hearing is about gay relationships being fluid, breaking up more easily than they are formed – but that is not exclusively true of same-sex relationships, is it? The striking thing about Mr. Gill's dialogue is its freedom from camp. Lines such as "What is gay culture? The make of your underpants" are delivered without a hint of cute. True, the notion of gay community is undermined: "We don't," explains one of the characters, "have a homeland."

In place of gay solidarity, this gripping, enjoyable play offers a vision of humanity where there is an equal place for women, and even for heterosexuality. I saw it as a vindication of tolerance, almost a miniature utopian vision, with homosexuals having lessons to teach, such as the instinctive democracy of those whose sexuality so often transcends barriers of social class. Anyway, most aspects of the sex war are universal. Anyone who's ever had a relationship sour will recognize the complaint that "you're so selfish you can't even deceive me successfully." – From The Wall Street Journal Europe

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