The scars of gay bullying explored in Late Company at London's Trafalgar Studios - Review

A cathartic evening raising uncomfortable issues of sexuality and teenage bullying. Debora and Michael are expecting guests for dinner but this is no ordinary dinner party. This is going to be a ‘process of healing’. They have invited Bill and Tamara and their teenage son Curtis. Curtis was instrumental in the homophobic bullying of their own son Joel, bullying which ultimately led him to commit suicide a year before. Themes of bullying, sexuality, suicide and family dynamics are laid bare and it is as tough to watch as it is heart-breaking. I don’t think there is a gay man out there who can’t recall the trauma of being bullied at school, whether it’s for being gay, artistic, un-sporty or simply for being different. The name-calling, violence and persecution can scar you for life and this production will touch a nerve. The play also highlights the horrors of the school yard hierarchy, social media and our societal problem of feeling forced to ‘man up’ and just ‘get through it’. With suicide being the biggest killer of young men in the UK this production raises issues that we have to confront and talk about, no matter how uncomfortable. Lucy Robinson as grieving mother Debora excellently portrays a mothers anguish, pain and guilt. Her ferocity aimed at her son’s tormentor, no matter how much she tries to restrain herself, is chilling. As she reads a letter to Curtis across the dinner table detailing the discovery of her son’s body it seemed like time stood still and the audience forgot to breath. Todd Boyce as husband Michael speaks volumes by doing so little. With his head bowed he physically embodies a man in a whole world of pain. Alex Lowe and Lisa Stevenson as the opposing parents Bill and Tamara tread a fine line of needing their son Curtis to take responsibility for his actions yet protect him from the firestorm both domestic and public. They do so with great skill and sensitivity. David Leopold as son Curtis is pitch perfect as he squirms with teenage angst, watching the adults in horror as events unfold. This is a truly cathartic evening. We go into the theatre, we laugh, we cry and we emerge having experienced something special. Rating: 4/5 Late Company plays at Trafalgar Studios until September 16. For tickets click here. Words by Matthew Hyde