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A CurtainUp London  Review
Out In the Open

By Lizzie Loveridge

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Every time I see horrible things about gay boys on the tele, I take it personal. They are slagging off my son.  
-- Mary




James McAvoy and Mark Bonnar
(Photo: Sheila Burnett)




Jonathan Harvey's new workOut in the Open is a tender, well acted, often moving and caustically witty play. It is about two lovers who are left after the accidental death of their shared partner, each not being "meant" to know about the other. It is also about the isolation of the extra-marital "mistress" figure, uninvited to the funeral and unable to contact anyone who knew their lover. Also part of the mix is the widowed person whose mother in law expects the the grief of bereavement to go on for ever. The difference between this and conventional triangles is that all the characters are gay men.

Set in the back garden of a house in east London, Tony (Mark Bonnar), who is HIV positive, has brought home a younger boy, Iggy (James McAvoy) from the pub. Tony continues to live with Kevin (Sean Gallagher), their flatmate, after the death of Frankie, Tony's lover. They are "haunted" by Frankie's mother, the zany, spliff smoking Mary (Linda Bassett,), who uses Tony as a way of keeping in contact with her dead son. Bassett brings all her acting skill to the role. She is both quirky and poignant, sensitive to her own needs but insensitive to those of others. A friend, Monica (Michele Austin), is a black woman with theatrical aspirations. A larger-than-life figure, she steals many of the scenes with her self-deprecating humour, her easy going attitude and genuine concern for her friends. Add to this mix, Rose (Vilma Hollingbery), a characterful, retired publican, name dropper and friend of Mary.

The main theme of Harvey's play is one of secrets and lies, the kind of secrets that everyone knows but has to pretend that they do not. This is the second time that Kathy Burke, who is better known in Britain as an actor and comedienne, has directed a play by Jonathan Harvey. She should do more directing on the strength of this play. I liked Michael Taylor's patio set with its lovingly tended exotic plants and foliage but saw little point in the programme article about how to create decking in your garden. Maybe the audience was meant to compare the hazards of wooden decking in garden swith the rainy English climate (according to a recent BBC radio programme) with the hazards experienced by Harvey's characters when they fall in love.

OUT IN THE OPEN
Written by Jonathan Harvey
Directed by Kathy Burke

Starring: Linda Bassett
With: Mark Bonnar, James McAvoy, Sean Gallagher, Michele austin, Vilma Hollingbery
Design: Michael Taylor
Lighting Design: Chris Davey
Sound Design: Dean Whiskens
Running time: Two hours thirty minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 7722 9301
Booking to 14th April 2001
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 21st March 2001 performance at Hampstead Theatre London NW3 (Swiss Cottage tube)








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Send feedback to esommer@curtainup.com If you include permission we'll be happy to publish your comments in etcetera or our Letters section but reserve the right to edit or cut as needed.
2001   Elyse Sommer.