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Undetectable at the King’s Head Theatre | Review

(c) Nick Rutter. From left to right_ Freddie Hogan, Lewis Brown
(c) Nick Rutter. From left to right_ Freddie Hogan, Lewis Brown

What does the word ‘undetectable’ mean to you? If you were a fan of detective stories, it’s a crime that cannot be solved. If you are a reader of some of our more right-wing papers, then we are talking about illegal aliens living in the country under the radar. If you are a gay man, then it is something far more serious that will affect your life forever. Undetectable is also the title of Tom Wright’s new one-act play which is receiving its world premiere at the King’s Head Theatre.

As far as gay relationships go, Bradley (Lewis Brown) and Lex (Freddie Hogan) are very unusual. Despite dating for three months, this twenty-something couple have not actually slept together yet. And their relationship is going from strength to strength. For instance, this very night, Lex has introduced Bradley to his, rather judgy, housemates, something he has been loathe to do with other men that he has gone out with. So, tonight is a special one. In fact, tonight could be really special as Lex believes that this is the time where, in the words of the Spice Girls, 2 Become 1 and he and Bradley will finally consummate their feelings for each other. So, Lex has his idea of how the night will pan out, but does Bradley feel the same? Or will the night take them both down unexpected emotional roads and into uncharted territory and what will be the state of their relationship when the sun rises once more?

For a play that is only about seventy minutes long, Undetectable really packs a punch. Playwright Tom Wright has created two really interesting characters and given them both really powerful, life-changing backstories that completely explain the men they are today. A brilliant piece of writing that, for me at least, really touched something unexpected in my heart, to the point where I was holding back the tears at one point. I loved the way my feelings about the boys changed so much over the course of the story. Initially, I wasn’t that keen on Bradley. He struck me as a bit of a whiner who, while not wanting to be identified by labels, used them as his own defence mechanism to explain why he wasn’t everything he wanted to be. As the story moved on, I realised that the problem was me – who has never gone through what Bradley has – finding excuses to write him off when in fact, he is a really complex individual who, in his 28 years had gone through so much that I will never experience and had come through with a strength that was far superior to that of Lex. In fact, by the end, Lex was definitely the weaker of the two for me. Trying to make up for his own stupid action but never able to find a way to forgive himself so sublimating everything into the physical. In fact the perfect partner for the stronger Bradley. My usual gripe about gay plays is that that they don’t portray people like me, who are not only not a ‘10’ but would love to be thought of as a ‘6’ but with Undetectable this wasn’t a problem. The reason that Lex and Bradley are so fit are part of the story and their perfect bodies are necessary for them to be the men they are.

The words, while excellent are not enough to make a first-rate show. Luckily Lewis Brown and Freddie Hogan take the characters of Bradley and Lex respectively and give flesh to them – and dropping into a superficial gay mode for a moment, the flesh is well worth seeing. The two actors and therefore their characters are, of course, more than very attractive bodies and they both really show every facet of the two boys with complex pasts, a happy present and a future that is uncertain but has much potential. Director Rikki Beadle-Blair sets the action around a raised bed with a hanging light – that seems to have a mind of its own – making that the focus of the stage. The boys jump in and out of the bed, circle it and use it for storage, so that the bed, rather like their decision to sleep together or not, dominates the space and their lives at this point.

Undetectable is one of those plays where every element has come together to make a production that, for me worked on every level. Watching it last night was a privilege and reading the playtext today, I am reliving every moment of the show one more. Speaking of the playtext, this one I would really recommend you to get. As well as acting as the show’s programme, the text includes some wonderful descriptors of the actors and how things are panning out. There is even a note about elephants that had me laugh out loud on the bus. Overall, I am pleased that I am a theatre reviewer rather than a theatre critic, for Undetectable is one of those shows that is virtually impossible to criticise and a pleasure to review.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

Sex is easy. Intimacy is hard. The award-winning producers of 5 Guys Chillin’ and The Chemsex Monologues present the world premiere of Undetectable, a tender, funny and uplifting love story for the post-chemsex generation. Hunky dream boy Lex and bright spark Bradley are falling for each other. Big time. After three months, Lex has decided that tonight’s the night… but Bradley’s not so sure he wants to go all the way. With wisdom, wit and honesty, Tom Wright’s bold new play explores the delicate emotions, moral dilemmas and personal demons we all take to bed with us. Directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair.

13th March to 6th April 2019
King’s Head Theatre
https://www.kingsheadtheatre.com/

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