Pros: A well-paced and thought-provoking family drama with a few laughs thrown in.
Cons: The use of religious doctrine in the script seemed odd in the mouths of the characters at times.
Jeff, a married man, is living an alternative life as a promiscuous homosexual when he meets Malcolm. Jeff slowly lures Malcolm out of the closet and as their relationship develops, they come face to face with the bigoted views of small-town England.
The Etcetera Theatre is a splendid space for this production: it is well set up, and yet you are close enough to the action to feel the intensity. And this show is filled with intensity, and with the subject matter you would expect nothing less. The story follows an unlikely relationship hampered by circumstance and the small minded folk of rural England. The show puts an emphasis on the role of religious doctrine in the condemnation of homosexuality.
Alexander Hulme as Jeff played a commanding role as a married gay man trying to negotiate a path through his desires, his duty and his anger at his father. Jeff provided the link between all the characters and possessed that rare characteristic that allowed him to hurt all those around him while simultaneously remaining thoroughly likeable and sympathetic. There was complexity here that was dealt with brilliantly as all the characters orbited around Jeff, remaining in constant flux as well as various states of love and hate.
The stage set was effective and simple, but nothing spectacular. The importance here was on the 4 characters and the relationships between them ,which was the strength of this play. The pacing was quick and deliberate as we were given mostly short cut scenes between the moments of darkness. This enabled a great amount of story to be fitted into the 1 hour 15 minute running time and allowed the audience the ability to fill in the gaps. The performance showed great promise and would definitely work on a bigger stage as well. All four characters were well rendered and likeable, even Tony (Jeff’s Father) and Sharon (Jeff’s wife), who despite holding more bigoted views both came across as more misguided and stupid than genuinely malicious. This was both a good and bad thing.
The weakness of this show was ultimately the over-emphasis of the religious aspect. At times it felt more like a lecture than a play, the way the characters spoke about religion seemed out of keeping with the way they spoke in other scenes. Reasoned argument and savvy bible quotation grated against the adrenaline and passion of a raucous family argument. The play was presented as a reaction to Christian homophobia and it felt like this hampered the story in its overstatement rather than make a more subtle and pertinent point. There was nothing original or new here, it asked for a very specific reaction from the audience which belied the complexity of the characters in the story being told.
Overall, Abominations had much potential: it had a powerful atmosphere and a great dynamic between the characters and the pacing was spot on. The play just seemed too determined to push home a specific religious point rather than tell the story of the characters.
Written and Directed by: Matthew Campling
Booking Until: 29th May 2016
Box Office: https://www.ticketea.co.uk/tickets-theatre-abominations/