Play Something – Drayton Arms Theatre, London

Writer/director: Paul T Davies

Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

For Proust, it was smell; the aroma of madeleines enough to evoke long-forgotten memories. For most of us, the effect is more noticeable in music, with songs able to remind us of pivotal, or not so pivotal, points in life.

Such a phenomenon is the inspiration for Play Something, a play about two gay men that progresses from their first meeting until their last many decades later, that each scene or transition is dominated by a song.

When they first meet, Ben Maytham’s character is a Kylie-loving, out gay man who is looking for love; Jacko Pook is closeted in his work life and to his family, but in his private life revels in sex clubs and leather bars.

Paul T Davies’ two characters start off at either end of the spectrum of gay stereotypes, something upon which Davies doubles down: while never named on stage, the credits cast Maytham’s nurse as “F” and Pook’s policeman as “M”, reinforcing the false belief that camp men are somehow more feminine, and those led by aggression and rage are more masculine.

As their lives continue to intertwine, M rejects the notion that they are in a relationship. Davies’ writing treats the negotiation of their boundaries – how their individual sex lives will impact upon what they do together – with a disarming banality.

These are discussions which are rarely played out on stage, but one can’t help wishing that when they do, the dialogue could be a little more inspired than shown here. The characters’ discussions have a tendency to descend into shouting matches, the script barely rising above the level of first draft improvisation.

Matters improve when, after many years apart, the characters (now played by Matt Bradbury and Shane Whitworth) reunite. With the mellowing of their characters comes a degree of nuance, although the script remains somewhat lacking.

What is commendable is the sense of a loving couple tending each other into their old age. Indeed, the most affecting scene is a prolonged, wordless scene as Whitworth’s elderly F dresses an equally infirm M in pyjamas. It says in actions what Davies’s script struggles to say in words.

Continues until September 22, 2018 | Image: Contributed

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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