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46 beacon at The Hope Theatre London – Review

4 beaconIt’s 1970 on a hot July night in a hotel room in Boston, and Robert and Alan are about to spend a night that will have a profound impact on both of them for many years to come.

During the course of the evening they talk, negotiate, fight and….*SPOILER*….get up to other acts…and we’re right there alongside them, never entirely sure how aware Alan really is of his effect on Robert or how much we approve of Robert’s sometimes blatant, sometimes half-hearted seduction techniques.

The opening monologue of 46 beacon must be one of the most enjoyable openings to a play that I have seen in a long time. Beautifully delivered and perfectly written, we’re invited into the world of the play with charm and humour. Robert (Matthew Baldwin) is instantly likeable; sexy, louche and hilarious, so when he asks us to follow him back to that hotel room in 1970, rather like the young Alan (Jak Ford-Lane) we’re putty in his hands.

It’s a simple enough premise, but the writing and the performances are all so on point and so honest that the play flies along and writer Bill Rosenfield has a strong instinct for humour that gives the play an extra shine and dimension.

The characters are interesting too – Baldwin is fantastic as Robert, the charming British actor who is not quite the star he wanted to be, but not quite the bastard he might like to be either – every time we wonder if Robert has gone too far, he pulls himself back – he offers.

Alan exit options. He’s not a bad man, he’s extraordinarily honest – but he lives in a different moral universe to Alan. Ford-Lane is equally impressive as the naïve boy who wants to ‘befriend’ Robert. He’s lonely, isolated, finding comfort in the theatre and trips to see Broadway shows. At times we feel sorry for him, other times we wonder how much of his naivety is an act? Does he have a better understanding of his power than he is letting on?

Both actors have excellent comic timing and a joyful rapport and it’s just delicious watching them get to know each other. The set is simple but effective and Director, Joshua Stamp-Simon makes great use of the limited space and keeps the play moving and the action flowing and makes some brave and creative choices which lift the play. There is nudity, but it didn’t feel gratuitous, for me it added another dimension. We saw what all this negotiation was about – something so simple and ubiquitous and yet highly personal.

The plot, such as it is, isn’t really the thing with this play – it’s all about the performances and the brilliant writing – 46 beacon is nostalgic and tender as well as brutally funny – and although (for me) there was something not quite satisfying enough about the ending – particularly because the opening was so strong. But there’s something so honest about the play, something in Rosenfield’s writing that is both brilliant and compelling. This is a coming of age story, for both men, and we’re simply asked to bear witness to their pivotal moments. It’s a joy to watch.

Hope Theatre declares their programme as including an ‘exciting mix of new writing, lost gems from well-known writers.’ There is certainly good reason to be optimistic about the future shows at Hope Theatre. This is a bold and delightful new play showcasing great talent.

4 stars

Review by Roz Wyllie

46 Beacon, a coming-out and coming-of-age play set in 1970’s America by Drama Desk and Richard Rodgers Award Award winner Bill Rosenfield, will get its world premiere at The Hope Theatre, Islington, London N1 1RL, 4 -12 October.

Robert is a British actor visiting Boston who may have missed his chance professionally. Alan, a young man who works at the local theatre, is just learning who he is and how he may (or may not) fit into the world at large. They both want something from one another but is it the same thing? 46 Beacon explores a turning point in these two lives…

46 Beacon is directed by Joshua Stamp-Simon (The Last of The DeMullins) and features Matthew Baldwin ‘Offie’ nominee for his one-man play The Act and recent East 15 graduate Jak Ford-Lane. It is produced by Oli Sones (A Chorus Line, Taken at Midnight).

WARNING: 46 Beacon contains strong sexual content, brief nudity and a couple of musical theatre trivia references.
LATECOMERS MAY NOT BE ADMITTED. PLEASE ARRIVE IN GOOD TIME FOR THE START TIME OF 7.45PM.
Over 18s only.

46 beacon
writer: BILL ROSENFIELD / director: JOSHUA STAMP-SIMON
4-5 & 11-12 Oct 2015
7.45pm
Sun & Mon nights only
The Hope Theatre
207 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1RL
http://www.thehopetheatre.com/

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