Writer: John Hopkins
Director: Stuart Clarke
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Don’t be fooled by the poster for Find Your Way Home. The photographs of a man’s six-packed torso and a woman’s sensuous lipsticked mouth suggest that this show will be steamy and sexy. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth.
John Hopkins’ play written in 1970 was once praised for its frank examination of homosexuality in Great Britain, and its Broadway transfer in 1974 even earned one of the actors a prestigious Tony award. In Cordial Production’s revival at Camden’s Etcetera Theatre, it is hard to comprehend why it was so well received in New York. Perhaps the main character, a strong, silent man harbouring same-sex desire, reminded American audiences of the plays by Tennessee Williams wherein all kinds of illicit desire sizzle under Southern skies. But any repressed desire has evaporated in the black box of the Etcetera.
This strong, and silent man is Alan Harrison who has left his wife to move in with his on/off boyfriend Julian, or Julie. But Harrison is not expected, and when he arrives Julie is with another man, who Julie proclaims is his brother. But there is another, more important, love triangle that is the focus of this play, and this is made plain when Harrison’s wife Jackie bursts into Julie’s chintzy flat. She wants her husband back and she’s determined to wrestle him from Julie’s grasp.
There’s a good deal of arguing and shouting; Julie doesn’t believe that Harrison won’t return to his wife one day, while Harrison says that he can’t have sex with his wife because she always comes to bed smelling of children. Director Stuart Clarke chooses to muffle any humour that the script offers, and the poison and the barbs are relentless. There is no light to any of these characters; gay men are oversexed, full of self-hatred and shame. What was revolutionary and sympathetic in this representation of homosexuality in the 1970s now seems dated, and Hopkins’ characters are coarse stereotypes, always wanting to jump into bed with each other.
We only see the bitterness of the characters; without signs of tenderness, it is difficult to believe that there is sexual desire between any of them. As Jackie, Julia Faulkner is very good here. Jackie has more to lose than the other characters and she is desperate, proud but, ultimately, broken. Julian Bailey-Jones tries his best with Julie, but he’s not allowed to explore the seductive side of him. Julie could be flirty, mischievous and fun, but here instead he’s irascible. Anthony Cord as Harrison gives an odd performance, never looking at any of his fellow actors, but instead delivering most of his lines straight to the audience. This may be an attempt to make Harrison into a brooding hero, like Brick in A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but instead it just makes you wonder why Julie and Jackie are fighting over him.
The only light-relief comes from the evocation of the 70s. To hammer home the decade we hear The Hustle by Van McCoy, Hot Stuff by Donna Summer and I’m Not in Love by 10cc in quick succession before the action even starts. The set, uncredited, is a dingy bedsit with a few pieces of furniture but the walls are adorned with photos of David Cassidy and in one corner there is one of the most iconic images of the 70s: the knickerless tennis girl. The flat seems to have a faulty dimmer switch as often the lights would blaze on and off for no apparent reason, a sign perhaps that the play is a little under-rehearsed. These light changes need to be more subtle.
Most tellingly, a print of Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion is pasted on the front door of the flat, and its three figures twisted in agony must represent the trio we see on stage, each character pulled apart by disappointment and resentment. But in this production we don’t see the sexual desire, which is at the root of this hurt. It is singularly bleak.
Runs until 4 March 2018 | Image: Contributed