If you are a gay man living in London in 2015, your life should be wonderful. Acceptance is all around you, there are bars and clubs dedicated to providing distractions and, if you want a bit of company, then Grindr, Growlr, etc caters to your every need. Everything in the garden should be rosy then? Well, possibly on the surface but underneath you have “The Machine” presented as part of the Pride in London Arts Festival at the Tristan Bates Theatre.
Nathan (Pierre Scot) is having problems. He has been with his partner Nicholas (Paul Sloss) for 12 years and, at first glance it is difficult for an outsider to see why. Nathan is a very bohemian character – a theatrical producer/director – while Nicholas is much more of a homebody – he likes things organised, neat, tidy and generally likes to run a tidy ship. Somehow though they are still making a go of it – possibly out of habit more than anything until Nathan’s ‘friend and business partner’ (Alexandra Dellarosa) following a fight tells him the truth about the lies and deceit that are the reality of their relationship. Nathan now moves into the ultimate mid-life crises. He moves out, gets a new flat and flatmate – the young, cute and scarily intense Craig (Richard Holborn) – and starts to try things he has never done before leading him to meet an attractive young boy on the make (Aaron Twitchen) who is just at the start of his trip into the Machine of gay life.
Dan Skill has written and produced a well observed piece about gay life in London. I easily recognised every character in the show – even the, possibly straight, reluctant gay movie actor (Roman Grey) forced to flaunt his body and more for an audition. Quite worryingly. I even shared my house with a ‘Craig’ type character for a couple of years and really could identify with Nathan’s frustration with him. All of the actors were very believable in their roles. Both Pierre and Paul really brought Nathan and Nicholas to life as they played out the inevitable demise of their relationship for all – except possibly Nathan – to see. Sitting in the audience having been run through the Machine and spat out the other side, it was easy to feel some frustration that I couldn’t be down there talking to Aaron Twitchen’s character really warning him of what he was getting himself into by diving head-first into ‘The Scene’.
From a writing point of view, Dan has written a piece that set the audience some fascinating questions to ask themselves and each other – leading to a very lively debate after the performance. For example, does everyone want, as one person put it, the Disneyesque fantasy of meeting a knight in shining armour with whom ‘you could take his hand and walk through the cornfields, never looking back’. Or, are relationships these days much more transient? Has the advent of new technology which gives most people the instant gratification of hook-ups at the touch of a button changed attitudes to the point where sex is? Something to be consumed whenever and wherever we please, like a coffee or bacon sandwich? Even if two people do meet and fall in love, can that love really last or do people need extras like making them open in order to keep them alive? Ultimately, in relationships as in most things there is no easy ‘one size fits all’ answer. If I have one criticism, it was that everyone was almost stereotypically attractive – 6 (or rather 8) packs abounded – almost as though the Casting Director had gone to “The Machine” to get the actors – all of whom were highly talented in their craft but I would have liked Nathan at least to have looked at little bit more as if he occasionally just stayed at home with a pizza and a couple of bottles of wine wondering where his life had gone (of course, this could just be me projecting a bit)
Anyhow, as I left the theatre and headed into Soho for a restorative drink, phone switched on hoping for a contact, it really struck me that, even though I am pretty much over the hill, “The Machine” has still got me hooked and probably always will. But at least, thanks to this fabulous show, I am going in with my eyes wide open.
Review by Terry Eastham
A new play written and directed by Dan Skili, examining the universal human themes of boundaries, loyalty and betrayal from a gay perspective.
Nathan is a successful gay man who faces a midlife crisis following the fall-out of his long-term relationship. As his world falls apart, he realises there are new choices to be made on his journey – which come with equally challenging consequences.
Set against the backdrop of recent social and political changes to gay equality in the UK, we learn what it is to be a gay man in 2015 – in and out of a relationship, where traditionally boundaries and loyalty have taken second place to betrayal and deceit.
Cast: Pierre Scot, Paul Sloss, Alexandra Dellarosa, Aaron Twitchen, Richard Holborn. Produced by Richard Holborn, presented by Red Shoes Theatre Company.
Tues 23 & Wed 24 June, 12pm & 3pm.
Thursday 25th June 2015