Writer: Peter Quilter
Director: Andrew Beckett
An old-fashioned farce has come to the Above The Stag Theatre, a venue that exclusively produces and stages LGBTQ+ work. The Morning After’s only previous productions had a straight couple at its heart, but in this new version two gay men take centre stage, and the results are often hilarious.
Playwright Peter Quilter always intended that the play’s protagonists were gay, but for a show about marriage, it was, perhaps, ahead of its time, and so with a little bit of tinkering Quilter came up with a straight iteration that was a hit in Europe. Quilter also wrote the play that inspired the hit film Judy, featuring Oscar nominee Renée Zellweger. Oliver and Tony nominated, End of The Rainbow was a hit across the world before it was turned into a feature film.
In comparison, The Morning After is a lesser work, although the broad comedy and the slapstick are often very funny, especially in the show’s more successful first half. Thomas has woken up in a strange bed with a man whose name he can’t remember. Adam has to fill in the gaps – the date at the cinema, the alcohol, the sex – to help Thomas remember. And perhaps more worryingly for Thomas, Adam seems extremely confident that he has met the man he wants to marry and ‘buy a house with.’ As Thomas gets his head around this eagerness, he is horrified when Adam’s mother storms in to give the young men breakfast.
Thomas soon discovers that Adam has a very unusual family. Adam’s mother Barbara is a Bohemian, and despite her Free Love credentials she’s very keen to get her son married. Adam’s uncle Martin is also larger than life, somewhere in between an over-enthusiastic gym instructor and a holiday camp host from Butlins. Somewhat surprisingly, after ‘three months and a week’, Thomas asks Adam to marry him.
As posh boy Thomas, David Fenne is excellent, bringing something of Hugh Grant to his role. His exasperation with Barbara’s overfamiliarity seems genuine as she climbs in bed between them. Colleen Daley as Barbara is completely over-the-top, as she needs to be for this role to work. She also has the best lines such as ‘Love is like the price of petrol; it always takes you by surprise.’ As Uncle Martin, Matthew Lloyd Davies is simply (and wonderfully) bizarre, gunning for very laugh he can. Fortunately, Chris Cahill can tone down the dramatics for his role as Adam, and he is engaging and you can just about understand why Thomas wants to become part of this crazy family.
A good farce should have plenty of doors in its set, and David Shields’ meticulous bedroom doesn’t disappoint. Andrew Beckett, who also directs the very successful and bawdy pantomimes at Above The Stag, ensures that the jokes and action flow effortlessly, and ultimately this is fine nostalgic entertainment.
In the programme Quilter discusses how other plays could be adapted to feature same-sex couples. Last year’s Present Laughter at the Old Vic saw a gender-swap, which threw Noel Coward’s play into new light and The Bridge’s Midsummer’s Night Dream also played around with gender roles to interesting effect. Romeo and Romeo, anyone? Auntie Vanya?
Runs until 1 March 2020