Pros: Sensuality and sensitivity at their best.
Cons: This is not a play for the coy and prudish.
Trying to escape a rural society where he’s unable to fully express his identity, Shane (Roly Botha) moves to Sydney, where he becomes infatuated with Will (Dan Hunter), a twenty-something guy from town. Lying about his age, the boy strives to become adult and independent but he must face all the difficulties that a coming of age consists of. Luckily, the older Peter (Stephen Connery-Brown) is there to offer advice, in a drama that explores the inmost fears of a young man who’s trying to come to terms with homosexuality against a cultural background of misconceptions which, unavoidably, affect his own beliefs.
The cosy auditorium at the back of the King’s Head pub-theatre, in Upper Street, is the perfect location for this intimate account in which Australian playwright Tommy Murphy doesn’t spare the details, backed by the accurate direction of Adam Spreadbury-Maher.
Roly Botha, here in his professional debut, literally holds together the performance, bringing on stage all the freshness and spontaneity required for his role. Both Hunter and Connery-Brown gravitate around him and offer valuable ground to a young actor who’s impressively credible and naturally talented.
In a set modified continuously by the actors according to the change of scene, the sound helps to underline the story like a dynamic punctuation, framing the sequences and facilitating every transition on stage. The presence of strong visual contents requires calls for discreet but prompt lighting support, which seems always spot-on.
The patchy script is the only blemish I could find. Despite reflecting brilliantly the fragmentary language of the young generations, it skips or oversimplifies some important passages, like certain connective steps between the three characters. To compensate, the audience is requested a bit of imagination, whereas such a personal contribution isn’t necessary at all in some of the hottest encounters between Shane and his two friends. In this regard, I shall warn the most prudish or oversensitive spectators to steer clear from a play which takes pride in displaying – more or less openly – male heavy petting and nudity.
Strangers in Between is a highly regarded piece of contemporary Australian theatre, which premiered in Sydney in 2005. For the first time on a British stage, it touches with rare frankness and sensitivity the unease of generations that struggle to admit their own inclinations for fear of being rejected by their families and communities. Tommy Murphy bravely opens a window on the acceptance of sexual diversity and the often underestimated but ever so important right to be entirely themselves.
Author: Tommy Murphy
Director: Adam Spreadbury-Maher
Producer: King’s Head Theatre
Box Office: 0207 226 8561
Booking link: https://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/#/shows/873549083
Booking Until: 16 July 2016