Does anyone truly ever get to be who they want to be and live their life the way they want to live it? The answer is probably a resounding ‘no’. There may be many reasons for this but sometimes it’s simply that a person doesn’t really know what they want. This is the central theme of John Fitzpatrick’s This Much (or An Act of Violence Towards the Institution of Marriage) being presented as part of London LGBT Pride 2016 at the Soho Theatre.
Anthony (Simon Carroll-Jones) and Gar (Lewis Hart) are living the ‘normal’ gay men’s dream. They live together in a nice flat and on the surface everything seems rosy. Although not married or Civil Partnered, they have discussed doing it one day, just as they have discussed the number of children that they would like – four is a good number apparently – and the fact they would need to move to a bigger house in order to provide a good family home. There are problems for both of them. Anthony comes from a broken family but seems close to, and in awe of, his mother. Gar’s parents are together but his father in particular is not happy with his son’s homosexuality and this has caused problems with the rest of the family. Still, the boys are doing OK together and all is well with their idyllic lives. Oris it? The reality is that Gar is not happy. He feels that he is turning into a typical gay living a heteronormal type life and he resents it. Although he is in a supposedly monogamous relationship and has told Anthony he has deleted it, Gar still has a certain app on his phone and has been chatting to someone on a regular basis. As luck would have it, Gar runs into this chap Albert (Will Alexander). Albert is in his early twenties, attractive and full of a youthful zest for life and adventure. What will happen to Gar and Albert’s relationship with the introduction of Albert to the mix and can everything be sorted with a wedding dress and hoover?
This Much takes a bit of a skewed look at relationships and how they affect the people involved. Writer John Fitzpatrick doesn’t seem to be a fan of marriage or the attempts by many gay couples to try and ‘normalise’ their relationships to fit in with the perceived heterosexual view of the world. The play starts in a weird way with Gar taking pictures of just about everyone and everything as the audience enter, while Anthony sits, and occasionally dances, and watches everything that is going on, while Albert, works the decks. Once it does start, it is really easy to identify with one or more of the characters as the story unfolds. That isn’t to say that anyone is portrayed as a stereotype, more that the characters are well written and I instantly felt as if I knew them. I really loved Alex Berry’s highly mobile and very effective set. Without giving too much away, the set really came into its own as the play moved on and the set become a very distinct part of the action in its own right. Music, lighting and excellent direction by Kate Sagovsky all combined to bring the story to life but full credit has to go to the highly talented trio of actors who literally gave their all to bring out the three characters so well.
Lewis Hart’s Gar in particular was a fascinating character. His confusion as to the sort of life he wanted was obvious for everyone – except his partner – to see. He has obvious personality issues, undoubtedly linked to his family situation which cause him to question things too much and possibly be a little too self-centred and unworried about other people as he dealt with things. Simon Carroll-Jones puts in a nice performance as Anthony a man who seems to crave a ‘normal’ family life – possibly to make up for the one he didn’t get as a child – and in trying to attain that finds himself becoming clingy and overbearing and, to my mind, pretty much bringing his troubles upon him in a perverted wish fulfilment way. He expects Gar to cheat and their relationship to fail – as happened with his parents – so creates a home atmosphere where that scenario becomes a possibility. Finally Will Alexander who brings a wonderful sense of fun, spirit and devil may care nonchalance to the role of Albert. Initially just a telephone app hook-up, Albert is essential to the story as he shows Gar that life can still be fun, daring and at times downright dangerous, if only he would drop his guard a bit. I did like Albert, though I’m not too sure about the motivation for his actions in the second half of the play.
All told then This Much (or An Act of Violence Towards the Institution of Marriage) is a really enjoyable one-act play. The characters are gay but the reality is that it is about people and relationships irrespective of sexual orientation. This is a show that may shock and possibly offend – there is bad language and some nudity – but if you can get over this then you will find This Much (or An Act of Violence Towards the Institution of Marriage) to be a moving and thought provoking production that is a credit to the writer, director and actors and is a welcome start to the 2016 London Gay Pride Cultural Festival.
Review by Terry Eastham
MOVING DUST and Nik Holttum Productions present
This Much (or an Act of Violence Towards the Institution of Marriage)
Premiering in London during Pride Festival, this exhilarating Edinburgh Fringe hit shows three men battling conformity to ask how we define relationships, and how relationships define us.
At a time when gender, sexuality and individual identity are undergoing a radical re-examination, John Fitzpatrick’s groundbreaking play, written as part of the Royal Court Writers’ Programme, examines the tug of war between wanting to belong to society and being true to yourself. The play asks if we form relationships to be happy or do it because we fear the alternatives and need to fit in. Does the tradition of marriage have intrinsic value or has its historical significance invested it with a value that has passed its sell by date?
Set amidst a traditional wedding party and featuring a classic disco soundtrack, This Much traverses an intimate story of adrenalin-fuelled games, heart-breaking highs and lows, violent confrontation and beautiful moments of love and humanity. Gar can’t decide between the man who plays games and the man on one knee with a ring, and every choice seems like a compromise. As boundaries between audience and performers are blurred, This Much questions suddenly being allowed to fit in, whether you want to fit in anymore or what that meant in the first place.
Cast Simon Carroll-Jones (Antony), Lewis Hart (Gar) and Will Alexander (Albert)
Director Kate Sagovsky
Writer John Fitzpatrick
Dramaturgy John Fitzpatrick and Kate Sagovsky
Assistant Director Andrew Room
Designer Alex Berry
Lighting Design Matt Leventhall
Sound Designer Dom Kennedy
Producer Annie Sheppard
Soho Theatre (Soho Upstairs), London | 7th June – 2nd July 2016
Running Time: 70 mins | Suitable for ages Strictly 16+ (contains adult themes and nudity)
21 Dean Street, Soho, London, W1D 3NE