“We’re human beings with natural urges! Why should we be so bothered about fitting a mould set out by a society that barely gives two shits about us anyway?”
This is the central theme of All That,
a new play by Shaun Kitchener (Positive, Christmas Farce),
which explores the complexities of gay relationships in contemporary society.
Taylor (Kitchener) and Riley (James Robert-Moore) are a gay couple in a bit of a financial bind. In order to get some extra cash, they rent out their spare room to another gay couple - Jamie (Tom Bovington) and Parker (Christopher Cohen). When the strictly monogamous Taylor and Riley discover that their new tenants are in an open relationship, things quickly begin to unravel.
Open relationships are always a hot-button topic. Whenever we publish a story on the Attitude website, we're treated to an influx of reader comments chastising those in open relationships for being sex-obsessed lunatics who want to have their cake and eat it to. Others see non-monogamous gays as traitors to the cause of trying to make homosexuality 'acceptable' to the straight world.
tackles all of these assumptions and deals with them deftly. Characters who make judgements about open relationships have to confront questions within themselves about their own relationship with monogamy. Do we fight our natural urges because we think that's what the world wants? Do we explain away inappropriate contact with men outside our relationship to make it seem alright? Are we quick to judge people because part of us wants what they have?
Gay men in the audience will find themselves facing their own insecurities, as the relationships presented ring true for the experience of anyone who has ever been in a relationship with another man. Seeing a version of yourself on stage, even if there are few similarities on the surface, makes for uncomfortable, but necessary, viewing. Issues that may be festering inside us that we would prefer not to address are laid out in front of us.
It speaks to the universality of the gay experience. Gay men cut across divisions of class, race, religion, and location - but our romantic relationships share a common thread, rooted in anxiety and the worry that it could all come crashing down at any moment.
That's not to say that All That
is preachy. There are certainly moments where characters - Taylor and Jamie in particular - unleash their feelings to what seems like the world at large - but the effectiveness of the writing stops it from becoming a public service announcement.
At times, All That
is reminiscent of a sitcom. The domestic setting, the staging, and the physicality of the humour create an environment ripe for nostalgic enjoyment. In a genius move, viewers are lulled into a false sense of security by the comfort created by this familiarity, and are blindsided by the frank exploration of the instability that bubbles beneath the surface of many relationships.
The play's MVP is Roberta Morris, who plays Taylor's straight best friend Kim. On the face of it, Kim is just the show's comic relief - she appears at inopportune moments and says the wrong thing at the wrong time - and she is
to an extent. The character is hilarious and her somewhat limited understanding of the gay experience will be familiar to many. However, as the play continues, Kim begins to confront her own assumptions about what her gay friends mean to her, which elevates the role beyond that of the 'hag'.
Writer Shaun Kitchener hopes All That
will give the audience something to think about on the tube journey home. As a twentysomething who just happens to be in an open relationship, this reviewer spent the tube journey wondering how Kitchener managed to step inside my mind, extract my innermost thoughts and anxieties, add some jokes, and present them in front of me.
All That plays until Saturday (June 10) at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, Kentish Town, at 7:30pm. Tickets are on sale now from www.lionandunicorntheatre.co.uk.
For more great deals on tickets and shows visit tickets.attitude.co.uk