by Peter Gill
Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, West End
Review by Jane Edwardes, Time Out, Wednesday January 16, 2002
Ghosts of productions past are currently hovering over the Royal Court stage, especially a trio of plays by DH Lawrence once directed by Peter Gill. Now Gill has returned to direct his own new play and his production matches William Dudley's meticulously realistic set of a farm labourer's cottage in the '60s. Adopting, for instance, real time to make a cup of tea can be extremely risky, unless the natural flow of life is enough to keep the audience engaged. Fortunately, Gill is a master of the craft and the subtle interchange of the actors and the acuteness of the emotions create a completely absorbing evening, a gay love story in which class and aspirations keep the two lovers apart.
Unusually for this playwright, there is a meaty story to follow. George and John meet because John has come up to Yorkshire to help direct a production of the Mystery Plays in which George, who works on the farm, is taking part. Unexpectedly, it is George who seduces John leading him by the hand up the tight staircase to his bedroom next to his mother's. There is a charm about this seduction, which is very different from the brutally explicit sex scenes more commonly seen at this address. Their actions may then have been illegal, but it is not fear or shame that drives them apart; even George's family appears to accept their relationship. It is rather their different worlds, which each examines with curiosity as if visiting a strange museum. Lloyd Owen as George touchingly suggests the tussle between safety and boredom, excitement and fear as John tries to persuade him to come to London to work in a theatre very like the Royal Court. There is the additional implication that the Mystery plays were more inclusive than any theatre since. Gill records George's family's delight in the production without any snobbery or mockery. It's one of the emotional highlights of a play which, beneath its terse dialogue, stirs some very deep waters indeed.
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