Sometimes a show can start a conversation just by its title. And this is particularly true of the latest addition to the King’s Head Theatre Queer Festival 2017 – Trouble with Men. This 45-minute production consists of three gay plays, all written and directed by playwright Nick Myles and performed by a company of three outstanding actors.
The evening opened with ‘The Farce’ Three Men and Some Baggage. In a regular flat, Fin (Freddie Wintrip) is getting ready for the arrival of his new boyfriend (William McGeough) but before he arrives, Fin is joined by his best friend Ray (Reece Matthews) and not to put too fine a point on it, stereotypical ‘twink about town’. Fin really wants Ray to leave before the boyfriend turns up but Ray wants to stay and check out the new guy in Fin’s life. When he does arrive, complete with a large bulging suitcase, Ray is instantly, and possibly unfairly, anti-the new guy and does everything he can to convince Fin he is making a mistake in being with him. Will Fin’s relationship be strong enough to survive?
Three Men and Some Baggage was a great start to the show. Everyone in the audience – gay, bi, straight or other – knows Ray, or at least someone like him. G-A-Y any night after about 9.00pm is full of ‘Rays’ making judgements and being totally disapproving if someone over 30 walks into their empire. And yet, there was something almost endearing about Ray. Being a b*tchy queen may have been his main persona but ultimately, I like to think he had Fin’s interests at heart. Even as an older chap myself, I found something not quite right in Fin and his boyfriend’s relationship and whilst I didn’t agree with Ray’s methods, I secretly applauded his actions – even though it is totally wrong to judge someone by their age! My one frustration with Three Men and Some Baggage is that I really wanted to know so much more. How did Fin and the BF meet? What happened after the lights went down? Why did Fin assume such an unusual stance at the start? And, most important of all, what was in the suitcase?
No pause for breath as we went into the next performance, ‘The Drama’ Details. This was a one man monologue and was the story of a salesman (William McGeough) who had been out on a date with someone he had met on a dating site. Whilst I would like to tell you more, it is impossible to do so without giving away major spoilers. Suffice to say that this was a tour de force performance from William who took the audience on an amazing journey with the Salesman, experiencing all the shocks and surprises as he did along the way.
Having a drama following directly on from a farce seemed like a strange decision to me but, it worked so well. The opening of Details had a lot of humour in it so kept the momentum up from the previous play. But as the story went on, the humour died down and the drama really took hold leading to the final moments which were almost uncomfortable to watch. Actually I say watch but in reality we, the audience went through them with the Salesman and lived them as he did.
Finishing up the evening was ‘The Love Story’ a wonderful two-hander called London-Damascus. it’s a simple tale really. Two young men are in love with each other. They met online, became friends, then their relationship moved on and they fell in love, wanting to be with each other for the rest of their lives. The only fly in the ointment is that Adam (Freddie Wintrip) is in London and Ahmed (Reece Matthews) is in Syria. Their relationship is online and the two boys have never met. Instead, they have shown that distance doesn’t matter and even the 2,844 miles that separate them cannot stop true love winning out.
Once more, I am going to have to be wary of spoilers here but London-Damascus is a real tear-jerker of a play that is beautifully performed by the two actors. I hardly recognised Reece as the same actor from the first play and there is something really sweet about Freddie’s portrayal of Adam that really touches the heart – plus, as Ahmed says, he has got a truly lovely smile that really reaches his eyes and lights up his face. Being instantly connected to the characters, I hung on to every word and, from the start, really wanted to see where their relationship was going to go. The whole thing kept me on tenterhooks and surprised me so much that, at times, I didn’t want to breathe too heavily in case I missed a moment of Adam and Ahmed’s story.Even when the lights came up and I left the theatre, the final moments of London-Damascus stayed with me and, as I write this morning, I can still picture that last couple of minutes and the way it made me feel.
So, three amazingly different plays, one absolutely outstanding writer/director and three truly fantastic actors. Trouble with Men defied my every expectation in its writing and production. I can honestly say that, of everything I have seen, Trouble with Men has to be up there in my top five. I am always a bit of a soft-lad when it comes to the theatre and can cry for England but this show really reached into my heart and dragged every emotion possible out of me. If Nick Myles can achieve so much in only 45 minutes I would love to see what he can do with a full play – hint, make Three Men and Some Baggage into one.
My advice to anyone reading this is get yourself along as soon as possible. Trouble with Men is definitely for me one of the theatrical treats of the year.
Review by Terry Eastham
Following an acclaimed run at the Brighton Fringe Festival, writer/director Nick Myles presents three remarkable short plays about modern male homosexuality: a farce about stereotypes and unrequited love; a drama about a date going horribly wrong; a transcontinental love story about a naive Brit and a closeted Syrian. Reece Matthews, Freddie Wintrip and William McGeough excel in three strikingly theatrical slices of contemporary gay life…
Three Men and Some Baggage (the farce) Who is Fin’s new lover? Why is Ray so disapproving? And most importantly, what’s in that suspiciously large suitcase?
Details (the drama). A single salesman on the pull finds himself in a situation that’s both strangely familiar and dramatically different to anything he’s experienced before.
London-Damascus (the love story). Separated by thousands of miles and a cultural chasm, can Ahmed and Adam turn their online romance into real world happiness?
King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, N1 1QN.
Tues 15th – Sat 19th August 2017