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Review of A Partnership at the King’s Head Theatre

One would be forgiven a show called A Partnership would be about a business transaction of some kind. But I suppose if one has a partner, one is in a partnership. Two of the relationship status options on Facebook (yes, I looked it up) are ‘in a civil partnership’ and ‘in a domestic partnership’ – but as Ally (Ben Hadfield) points out, Zach (Sasha Kane) is his boyfriend – and not his civil partner. It is not a case of clutching at straws, even if there are infinitely bigger issues that arise out of this late-night conversation that clears the cobwebs: they’ve been together for some years, but their relationship should really have progressed further than it has.

A Partnership at the King's Head Theatre
A Partnership at the King’s Head Theatre

Zach’s evasiveness appears to be part of the problem, as does a sheer contrast in personality and outlook. Zach prefers to be low key to the point where he dislikes the notion of Pride events, whether in London or elsewhere, as not every LGBT+ person embraces what he sees as the overly flamboyant nature of proceedings. For him, there’s no distinct ‘pride’ in being a gay man; he simply is one.

With drugs and alcohol involved in the evening during which the play’s events take place, it would have been reasonable to put off this deep and meaningful conversation until another time. That Ally’s thirtieth birthday is approaching fast (very fast, as it happens – it is past 11:00pm the night before the big day) is one reason not to delay – that, and he feels he simply cannot go on for a nanosecond in a state of limbo. There’s not been much – or, rather, any – bedroom activity for a year and a half, and a litany of other problems are spoken about. It’s extraordinary that their relationship (or whatever they wish to call it) has lasted as long as it has. But perhaps the play seeks to demonstrate that love can make people do highly irregular things.

A key off-stage incident happened to be topical (at the time of writing): a very physical response to unpleasant remarks occurred at the 2022 Academy Awards, and while that incident resulted in an apology, Zach refuses to do the same. I can work with his logic on this point: if he isn’t sorry, he shouldn’t say something he doesn’t mean. Then again, if he isn’t sorry, that should – and does, for Ally – ring alarm bells. What I found intriguing is that Ally gives Zach yet another chance after what should have been a relationship-ending moment. The narrative is so packed with recollections of past events that forgiveness is evidently as sparing as subtlety, and eventually the production spills – no, pours – into melodrama.

An acerbic wit also permeates proceedings, and a comprehensive range of human emotions are staged, partly thanks to the use of flashback scenes. These were, I found, extremely useful in providing context. The flashbacks meant the overall storyline wasn’t told in forward chronological order, but it was all done in such a way that was never jarring or confusing. Both actors are quite brilliant in bringing a script that is as scathing as it is revelatory to life. Talk of future holiday plans is a vehicle to make clear how difficult it can be for a same-sex couple to even hold hands in public in some parts of the world. When some outmoded opinions on Zach’s part are divulged, the play tackles some complex issues head-on. Tugging at the emotions and thought-provoking in equal measure, this play provides audience members with much to talk about afterwards.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

On the eve of Ally’s 30 th  birthday, he and his partner Zach dissect what it means to be gay in the modern world. A Partnership keeps the two partners trapped in a frank, funny and heart-breaking conversation, five years in the making, with only a ticking clock, the shadow of internalised homophobia, and the question of whether we can – or should – be ‘normal.’

An LGBTQ+ tragicomedy about internalised homophobia in long-term relationships.

Company Information
Directed by Jack McMahon
Written/Produced by Rory Thomas-Howes
Assistant Director Chanel McKenzie
Assistant Producer Zach Waddington
Designer Bence Baksa
Lighting Designer Abi Turner
Movement Director Samuel Xavier
Technical Stage Manager Roshan Conn

Ally Ben Hadfield Zach Sasha Kane

Listings Information
10, 11, April 2022
King’s Head Theatre, London, 115 Upper Street, London N1 1QN

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