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Gay Generations – White Bear Theatre | Review

Gay Generations is a contrasting double bill of new plays.

The first is A Certain Term by Michael McManus, whose latest play Maggie and Ted is being staged at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in October, having received a showing at the Garrick Theatre recently. It concerns Graham who, each year, organises a party to ‘raise a glass’ to those friends who were lost in the Aids epidemic. The action begins an hour before the party, when a young work colleague, Joe, unexpectedly turns up to help with the arrangements. Later we meet a former lover of Graham’s, Robert…

Ed O'Connor and Daniel Cornish in A Certain Term.
Ed O’Connor and Daniel Cornish in A Certain Term.

The play started life ten years ago when McManus was undertaking research for a book on LGBT+ rights. During the various Covid lockdowns he decided to revise the play by setting it in 2021 and bringing in references to the present pandemic. He has a good ear for dialogue, and the denouement, which I will not give away, is quite surprising when it eventually arrives but as a whole, the play feels a little dated and would benefit from some pruning.

Daniel Cornish is very successful in his role as Joe, being able to show all the facets of the character, especially using subtle facial expressions. Graham is portrayed by Dickon Farmer as being very nervous and apprehensive, almost as if he regrets having to host these annual gatherings when he will meet those from his past whom perhaps he does not wish to. Edward O’Connor, in his first professional role, is suitably mysterious as Robert, and the most likeable of the three.

Direction is by Brian Hodgson who is quite determined to wring every ounce of meaning from the play which in the process at times lacks pace, especially in the scenes between Joe and Graham.

The second play, I F****n Love You, is by Charlie Ross MacKenzie, and is a total contrast. As the programme says ‘There are those nights, those perfect nights, you look into the soul of the person closest to you and connect with their humanity. Well, this ISN’T one of those!’ Simon and Adrian are getting ready for a good night’s sleep. The difficulty is that sleep is impossible when you are inclined to overthink things. During the course of this witty, forty-five-minute two-hander they uncover many “blasts from the past” including fidelity, death, and weak bladders, all washed down with Buck’s Fizz!

Unlike many plays written during ‘lockdown’ this is an uplifting, amusing, often very witty and poignant look at a relationship. Brandon Gale is one half of the partnership, instantly slipping into the required style the play demands, whilst Charlie Ross MacKenzie, the playwright, and rather older than Simon, plays Adrian. MacKenzie’s writing and acting is obviously greatly aided by his considerable experience as a stand-up comedian, mostly in Scotland, giving this play a north-of-the-border ‘edgy’ feel.

The director, Oliver McFadden, clearly realises that when the playwright is in the cast, a light touch is required, and the ‘final curtain’ sends the audience home smiling but thoughtful.

Odhran McNulty is responsible for the effective white and black ‘budget’ design for both plays and Jordan Rhys Moffat for the technical side.

A Certain Term

3 Star Review

I F++++n Love You

4 stars

Review by John Groves

The White Bear Theatre in Kennington presents GAY GENERATIONS, an exciting double bill of brand new one act plays by Michael McManus (writer of Maggie & Ted) and Charlie Ross MacKenzie (stand-up comedian, author and broadcaster). Directed by Bryan Hodgson (Tommy on Top, Above The Stag) and Ollie McFadden (Fugue/Chapters Unveiled, The Story Machine, Mary’s Works, Norwich). Features a stellar cast…

A Certain Term by Michael McManus, is a deeply moving piece focusing on an earlier pandemic – the HIV-AIDS pandemic. I F****n Love You by Charlie Ross MacKenzie is a light-hearted piece about the perils of overthinking in bed at night; after all, sleep is difficult when you are prone to overthinking things!

White Bear Theatre


  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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