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Wet Feet at Union Theatre | a sweet, and poignant story…

Like London buses, you wait ages for a one-act play about a gay sauna to come along, then lo and behold, two arrive in quick succession. So, after Sauna Boy at the Stage Door theatre, the second sauna play – Wet Feet – has just opened at the Union.

Matthew Edgar and Michael Neri in Wet Feet. Photo credit: Matthew Coulton.
Matthew Edgar and Michael Neri in Wet Feet. Photo credit: Matthew Coulton.

In a sauna private room, Nathan (Matthew Edgar) sits waiting. He is young, handsome, and very self-assured. This is his room where he is in control and where nobody enters without an invitation. Then, in walks Franko (Michael Neri). Unlike Nathan, he isn’t wearing a sauna robe. Instead, he has his own towel, a tee shirt, and a bum bag full of everything any self-respecting germophobic man needs in somewhere as potentially lethal as a gay sauna. On the surface, the two could not be more different and yet, as they start talking and get to know each other something happens and the two form a tentative connection that could either blossom or disappear into the steamy atmosphere.

Gay saunas are not necessarily the first location you would think of when setting up a story about two men meeting and getting to know each other. On the whole, men going in one, have one thing on their mind and conversation that goes further than saying ‘Do you want to?’ isn’t necessary. However, I can attest that sometimes, you do end up chatting with someone you meet and making a connection that isn’t based solely on, well you know. So, while a sauna initially seemed an unusual setting for Writer Michel Neri to set Wet Feet, it does actually work. Both Nathan – out, relaxed, a frequent visitor – and Franko – closeted, nervous, first timer – look, sound and feel that they are in the right place to randomly meet.

Their story has a nice sense of realism in it and on the whole moves along at a nice pace, with the passage of time marked by changes in Massimo Neri’s lighting to show we have moved along in the friendship. Director Dominic Rouse uses the actors to also illustrate the progress, with at times subtle changes in Franko’s body language marking his relaxation with Nathan as time passes. I did have an issue with one particular scene. I can’t say too much as the ‘no spoilers’ rule is in force, but there was a scene that to me felt rushed and jarred with my interpretation of the personalities of the two characters. However, moving on from this, there is some really interesting writing in the script. One part, concerning being closeted and needing to be in control of every aspect of your life until it becomes extreme, really resonated with me, as it would certainly explain my own fairly mild OCD. A really fascinating idea and piece of writing.

The two actors work together exceptionally well. Whilst their characters in appearance, age, and personality, suggest complete opposites, there is much that unites them and brings out the very sweet chemistry between them so that even when they fight, you want them to stop and see each other again. Lovely acting by Matthew Edgar and Michael Neri.

Overall, I really liked Wet Feet. It was a sweet, and poignant story of opposites meeting and finding a common attraction, and it was lovely to watch the friendship develop between Nathan and Franko, especially seeing the development of both characters learning from each other to accept themselves and live their best lives. At the end, as they sat looking out, I could only wish them well and hope that their lives turned out beautifully.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Cast:
Michael Neri – Franko
Matthew Edgar – Nathan

Creative Team:
Writer – Michael Neri
Director – Dominic Rouse
Designer – Reuben Speed
Lighting Design – Massimo Neri
Produced by Alistair Lindsay for Unusual Theatre Company

In the confines of a gay sauna, Nathan, an out and proud young gay man, and Franko, trapped in the shadows of the oppressive legacy of Section 28, find themselves in an awkward encounter.

As the steam rises on their escapades, an hilarious and heart-warming connection deepens…

Wet Feet is a poignant comedy about two lives that collide in the most unlikely of places, sparking a journey towards liberation and authentic connection.

WET FEET
Union Theatre
18 to 29 June 2024
70 minutes, no interval

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