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Review of Full Disclosure Theatre’s XPOSED – Southwark Playhouse

LGBT+ Theatre is really in vogue these days. Whether it’s because people in the LGBT+ community have amazing stories – often based on real events – to tell or perhaps it’s just that the community is really full of dramatic types – I don’t know, though I do tend towards the first answer. Whatever the reason there are LGBT+ seasons going on all over the place and, in time LGBT+ History Month, Full Disclosure Theatre has brought a new selection of LGBT+ themed short plays to the Southwark Playhouse under the title Xposed

The evening started with Tapestry by Fergus Church, directed by Yojiro Ichikawa Hassall and performed by Evan Horton.

Owen is on a date, and very happy about it. He and his chap are visiting the National Gallery and admiring the various works held there. Truth be told, Owen is a bit over the National Gallery as he has been there a few times previously, but he is there on a date with a man and so is willing to wander around the place as a couple. Actually, part of that last sentence isn’t exactly true. Owen is happy to be there with his man but doesn’t really want anyone to know they are a couple. And when his date tries to hold his hand, Owen starts to panic and remember events in his childhood that have scarred him for life.

What an opener to the evening this was. Having gone through something similar in the Tate Modern – where I was the one trying to hold hands rather than the one avoiding it – I can safely say that Fergus has written a pretty realistic story, which Evan Horton brings to life beautifully. Making full use of the performance area, Director Yojiro Ichikawa Hassall moved Evan around a lot so as Owen enters a new room in the National, so Evan is in a different part of the stage. Even himself, has a great stage presence and voice and gives Owen’s happiness and fear real identity as the story unfolds.

In Need
In Need – Photographer: Christina Bulford

Next up was In Need by Ben SantaMaria, directed by Kennedy Bloomer.

In the early hours of the morning, two ladies are in a kitchen. Connie (Hannah Lawrence), whose flat it is, is making a drink for Pearl (Georgia Taylforth) who has run out of her own home, seeking help after being beaten by her boyfriend. The two women are very dissimilar with Pearl being a local girl who has lived on her estate since birth and Connie being an incomer, one of the owners of the smart new flats that the likes of Pearl can only dream about. As they talk, the two of them learn more about each other and their conversation gets very personal leading to an unexpected finale.

I did have a couple of problems with In Need. Aside from the logical ones of how Pearl managed to get inside the apartment block that Connie lived in – these places are normally like mini fortresses – my main concern was about motivation. Maybe this speaks volumes about me but I honestly cannot think of a reason why even the Good Samaritan himself would have let Pearl into his home, so really don’t understand why Connie did. And the ending confused me. It felt a bit rushed and I was left with the feeling that this was a snippet of a longer play that would bring the confusing elements together. Having said that, both actors were really good in their roles and there were definitely moments both of hilarity and shock which kept the audience interested in the story.

Two Extra Letters
Two Extra Letters – Photographer: Christina Bulford

Play three and another monologue. This was Two Extra Letters by Hannah Sowerby, directed by Sam Luffman and performed by Alex T Hornby as Chris(sy).

Chris, is an ordinary bloke. Happily married, with two children, he just seems like Mr Average to his family, friends and neighbours. The truth is, Chris was born into the wrong body and has started the process of transitioning to the correct gender. Now known as Chrissy, she takes us through her story. From being aware that not everything was right, through to marriage, children, telling the wife and finally starting the medical process to fully transition.

Touching on a very delicate subject, this monologue was very emotionally charged without being over sentimental. Whilst I’m not certain all of the wording was 100% politically correct, and it can be very difficult keeping up with terminology, I thought this was a well-written piece that wasn’t afraid to point out the problems encountered by trans individuals. Alex played the part of Chris(sy) perfectly and conveyed her story really well.

The final play of the first half was We Have To Tell Jacob by George Smart, directed by Tom Ward

Two people (Katharine Jee and Russell Anthony) are sat at home waiting for their son Jacob (Stephen Redwood) to get home. They are both highly nervous for tonight they are finally going to tell their 16-year-old son something they should have told him years ago. Something so big, that Jacob’s life will never, ever be the same again.

Described as a reverse coming out comedy, We Have to Jacob is exactly that. A very, very funny piece that really looks at the whole coming out experience from an odd angle. I can’t have been the only gay member of the audience sitting there watching this and secretly thinking how much better coming out would have been had it been done this way. The three actors definitely had a good time presenting the piece which, in many ways, reminded me of a good old-fashioned farce. As well as a very funny script with wonderful lines like “you’re not my parents, that explains so much” and great acting, there were some nice directorial touches by Tom Ward – the parents playing rock, paper, scissors was a particular highlight for me – and all told, we went into the interval with a definite smile on our faces after this.

Here and Now
Here and Now – Photographer: Christina Bulford

Back from the interval and straight into the first of the final four with Here and Now by Tanaka Mhishi, directed by Law Ballard

This was a half monologue primarily performed by Ayesha de Garci as a young Bi woman telling the audience about some of the loves of her life. From the woman who broke her heart to the one night stand with a straight woman (Belle Bonfrer & Vanessa Burns) Through to an excruciating description of being ‘that person’ Ayesha not only exposes herself but also makes the audience question themselves in her search for true love.

This was a really thoughtful piece that surprised me in many ways. The main one being how much I realised how close I had become on occasion to being ‘that person’. Ayesha is a good storyteller and had a really interesting story to tell about people and the differences between what they say, think and do. I particularly loved the scene with the straight woman flipping out because she had spent the night with another woman. Something I could relate to having a similar experience with a straight man, who really flipped out afterwards. All told, Here and Now was a very thought-provoking piece indeed.

The Trip
The Trip – Photographer: Christina Bulford

Next up was The Trip by Joe West, directed by Dadiow Lin

Out in a field somewhere, a father (Nigel Fyfe) is trying to bond with his sixteen-year-old son (Dominic Jones) over a camping trip. Unfortunately, things are not going well. The son is more concerned with messaging his boyfriend than bonding with his dad, and the father is having great trouble adapting to the modern world – as well as lighting matches. Can the two of them find some middle ground to occupy where they can at least tolerate each other or is their relationship doomed with the camping trip being the final nail in the coffin?

I’m going to be honest, as I always am, and The Trip really didn’t work for me. I suppose my first problem was trying to work out how the father had got his son out on the trip in the first place. It just seemed so improbable that from then on, I had trouble identifying with either of the characters. The father was OK, if a trifle wimpy, and the son was a standard obnoxious teenager, like so many seen in countless productions. Having said that, both actors did a great job with their characters and Dominic, in particular, was excellent as the surly youth with a snooty expression who I took an instant dislike to.

Slow Dating
Slow Dating – Photographer: Christina Bulford

The penultimate play, and another monologue. This was Slow Dating by Adam Szudrich, directed by Eleanor Felton and performed by Tessa Hatts.

An elderly lady wanders into a geriatric speed dating evening and has an unexpected but very welcome surprise leading to her making a heartbreaking decision.

You know how sometimes an actor is described as being a triple threat – the perfect type of actor – well, without a shadow of a doubt Slow Dating is the triple threat of the play world. This play has it all, an awesome script, a superb actor and fantastic direction. There is literally nothing I can say against this play. The story is beautiful and exceptional in its construction with wonderful words that, in Tessa Hatts’ expert hands, paint a picture so vivid that the audience can see it immediately. There is laugh out loud humour – particularly in describing the speed dating – and a wonderfully emotional ending that, once more, had me reaching for my hankie. I didn’t take my eyes off Tessa for one instant as she brought the story to life and by the end, I felt as I had been through a huge and very enjoyable journey with a kindly old lady who really knew how to tell a tale.

As If We Just Held Hands
As If We Just Held Hands – Photographer: Christina Bulford

Finally, the evening finished with As If We Just Held Hands by Ian Townsend, directed by Chris Davis.

Kim (Rebecca Parker Smith) is very excited. She is off to Manchester Pride with her gay uncle Steve (Dickon Farmar) and his ‘special friend’ (Oliver O’Donohoe). The reason that Kim is so upbeat is that she is hoping that at the tender age of fifteen she will meet another girl to fall in love with at Pride. The reason Uncle Steve talks about a special friend is that, although he is sort of out, he is worried that being too out may put his job as a teacher in a Catholic school in peril. Maybe on this night of possibilities, the introduction of another 15-year-old girl (Jessica Rogers) will be the catalyst everyone needs.

An upbeat and positive end to the show, As If We Just Held Hands does a nice job of highlighting both the fears of some and the naive confidence of youth. A story of one girl taking her first tentative steps into the real world and a man overcoming his deepest fears, at least for one night, there were many things to like about this play. All four actors were great – though, from where I sat, the two men did look as if they were stifling the giggles during their kissing scene – this production was a fitting end to the show.

So there you have it. Eight amazingly different LGBT+ stories written by some great playwrights and brought to life by a very talented team of directors and actors. As is always the case in these evenings, not everything will please everyone but I’m happy I saw six really great plays, two of which were absolutely fantastic to my mind, and if a couple didn’t work for me, then no problem as I’m sure other members of the audience had them down as their favourites of the night. Full Disclosure Theatre should definitely be applauded for bringing together this wonderful evening and showcasing just how fabulously diverse the LGBT+ umbrella can be in modern theatre.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Following two sold-out shows, Full Disclosure Theatre are proud to present XPOSED, a new writing night of eight short plays revealing the naked and entertaining truths about queer life. Whatever your preference, come discover the latest talent from a company passionate about discovering unheard voices within the community and showcasing LGBTQ+ stories. XPOSED will be staged to tie in with the celebration of LGBT History Month.

Full Disclosure Theatre presents
Xposed
SUNDAY, 11 FEB 2018
Running Time 130 mins including interval
Southwark Playhouse
77-85 Newington Causeway
London, SE1 6BD
https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/

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