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46 Beacon ‘felt very authentic and engrossing’

L-R Jay Taylor (Robert) & Oliver Coopersmith (Alan) - 46 Beacon - Trafalgar Studios
L-R Jay Taylor (Robert) & Oliver Coopersmith (Alan) – 46 Beacon – Trafalgar Studios – Photo by Pete Le May

I’m not ordinarily keen on slow-paced productions in which some patience is required before anything significant happens. Perhaps it’s something to do with being a Londoner, more often in a hurry than not, trying to fit in too much into each and every day. Perhaps it was being told at the outset that this was a story “83 minutes long, and with no interval”. Whatever the root cause, there’s something compelling about 46 Beacon. On one level, this is just another coming of age story – a sort of spring awakening, if you will. Many people, regardless of sexual orientation, will not have forgotten their first time. And yes, I am talking about bedroom activity. But not everyone will recall the exact details as vividly and precisely as it is recounted here.

Seeing as Robert (Jay Taylor) and Alan (Oliver Coopersmith) are meeting properly for the first time, the audience knows as much about the characters as they know about each other. Both actors are perfectly cast, the plot is easy to follow, and the character development is unmistakable. The setting is very clearly set out, with little left to the imagination. Every so often, a reminder of the era pops up – a relatively late reference to ‘Barcelona’ from the musical Company stands out in my memory, though I should confess this has as much to do with the hilarity of the moment in which it is mentioned, as it is with the ‘health warning’ on some of the show’s marketing. Ticket bookers are cautioned that, amongst other things, this production contains ‘musical theatre references’.

The awkwardness of a first meeting, and being unsure as to how one’s comments and conduct will be received, are put across excellently. This is a play that refreshingly bucks a noticeable trend in new plays in recent years, where things are ticking along quite nicely before a critical incident comes along and demolishes a carefree situation, turning it into the worst crisis in the history of the world.

Here, the events of an evening unfold plausibly, and if there were scene changes in the main body of the play (there’s a prologue and an epilogue), they weren’t noticeable, such was the smooth flowing of the play from beginning to end.

The script is peppered with double entendres – I scribbled a couple of lines down, before realising regurgitating them here would be giving away too much. But I did so in the first place, which I don’t ordinarily do, which demonstrates the strength of the witty writing. Both characters find themselves repeatedly digging to extract more information from the other. I suppose it is never easy dredging up the past, or talking about personal matters that have not been discussed with anyone else before. Elsewhere, whoever thought a foot massage could be so gripping (in more ways than one)?

This isn’t about the story as much as it is about the way in which it is told. It’s an eye-opener, and the viewpoints of both characters are weighed up and given equal consideration. I understand this is a semi-autobiographical play from Bill Rosenfield – it certainly felt very authentic and engrossing. A heart-warming and deeply touching production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The address is 46 Beacon. The place is 1970s Boston. Alan (Oliver Coopersmith) and Robert (Jay Taylor) spend a balmy July evening hoping for a connection, emotional or physical? 46 Beacon charts their quest in Bill Rosenfield’s fresh, funny and moving script.

Set within a theatrical hotel, Robert has invited Alan back to his room and although they are at different stages of their lives, they each have something the other yearns for, but are they willing to give it?

46 Beacon is the story of that night your life was changed forever.

Directed by Alexander Lass and starring Oliver Coopersmith (Netflix’s I-Boy and the lead in forthcoming Sky Atlantic series Tin Star opposite Tim Roth and Christina Hendricks) and Jay Taylor (Donkey Punch, Nell Gwynn and Wolf Hall/Bring up the Bodies)

WARNING: Contains strong sexual content, brief nudity and musical theatre references.

46 Beacon
Running Time: Approx. 85 minutes (no interval)
Trafalgar Studios (Studio Two)
Trafalgar Studios 2, 14 Whitehall, Westminster, SW1A 2D

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