Pros: A powerful script delivered with skill and precision by an extremely talented cast.
Cons: Aggressive characters that don’t allow the audience to empathise or understand them.
Although I pride myself on being a theatre geek, Find Your Way Home was completely new to me. I was aware of John Hopkins as a brilliant screenwriter. Having cut his teeth on Z Cars in the 60s he went on to write and co-write films including Thunderball, The Virgin Soldiers and Murder by Decree, but I had not realised Hopkins had also written for the stage. In 1970, writing a play portraying gay relationships was a bold move by anyone’s standards. Homosexuality had only been legal for three years, and single sex relationships were barely tolerated, let alone embraced as they are now. The always excellent Etcetera Theatre is the perfect venue with its close, intimate surroundings adding to the atmosphere of this new production.
The key character is Julian, played by Julian Bailey Barnes. ‘Julie’ has a blasé attitude to relationships and forms a liaison with a mysterious toy boy (George Turner), who enjoys a challenge and moves in with Julie. He clears off when middle aged Alan (Anthony Cord) turns up. Seemingly the love of Julie’s life, he claims to have finally left his wife Jackie (Julia Faulkner). Julie is far from convinced, and so a dissection of their relationship begins. The second act features a highly charged stand-off between Alan and Jackie. The exchanges are riveting and heart breaking, as Jackie swings from angry wife to willing doormat who would take her husband back at any price. The play concludes with a final showdown between Julie and Alan, delivering a surprising twist on the way.
The cast bring their a-game, faultlessly delivering every line in a play packed with dialogue. It is without doubt a fine example of effective storytelling, and Hopkins never asks the audience to like his characters, only to recognise their flaws. But that is perhaps also the only weakness: the three gay characters are thoroughly objectionable with little in the way of redeeming features. Julie is arrogant and selfish, mainly concerned with his own gratification, while Alan is weak and malleable, longing for the best of both worlds. So we logically root for Jackie as the wronged wife. Maybe this is deliberate, but to strip away any semblance of decency leaves the audience with nowhere else to go. I would never doubt John Hopkins’ skill as a writer, but the gay characters were ruthlessly drawn, forsaking any sympathy which robs the play of some balance and perspective. Nevertheless, full marks to cast and creatives – this is top class theatre.
Author: John Hopkins
Director: Stuart Clarke
Producer: Cordial Productions
Box Office: 020 7482 4857
Booking Link: http://www.etceteratheatre.com/details.php?show_id=2642
Booking Until: 4 March 2018