With nowhere else in London currently focusing on gay theatre Above The Stag is kinda carrying the torch, and I still think they're much more in their element when producing campy fun but they continue to try for more issue-based fare as well. A double bill of short plays with a shared theme of people who were abused as children becoming fucked up when they're older, Boys' Plays
isn't particularly strong but it's an improvement on some of the stuff the venue has put on in the past. The opener, Boys' Play
is by Jack Heifner, who wrote Seduction
so that's a worry straight away. Fortunately this story, directed by Tim McArthur, isn't specifically gay-themed so we're spared any more of Heifner's charming examples of how gay sex is all either rape or prostitution. Instead two boys aged 15 and 16 go camping in the woods where one (Alexander Pritchett) plans to tell a huge secret to his friend (Matt Brinkler.) After the interval we return to a small bedroom where two men in their twenties (Kane John Scott and Freddie Hogan) are already in the middle of having noisy sex. Howard Walters' Extra Virgin
, about a seemingly random Grindr hookup that turns out to have a long-buried secret at the heart of it, is an improvement, largely as the performances in Peter Bull's production are stronger.
Both playlets felt to me like the playwrights had been commissioned to write something on a specific subject, rather than having a strong personal reason for telling these particular stories. Boys' Play
in particular feels like it's made up of scenes taken from a variety of other sources and mashed together. As if to prove the unwritten rule that every Stag production has a
cute Kane John Scott does the honours this time, despite the fact that it rather gives the lie to his character's constant references to being Jewish. The studly Hogan also spends a lot of time completely naked as well although he goes to great lengths to avoid flashing his front bottom to the audience¹ but fortunately his back bottom is also worth looking at. It may seem supremely hypocritical of me, with my SCROLLING!nudity alerts, to criticise to constant nude scenes, and I readily admit that the ploy works on me every time, but I genuinely would prefer my stage nudity to be one part of a good show, rather than the one redeeming feature. That's not quite
the case this time around but it still feels as if the programming is being chosen because of nudity potential first, quality second. During the first play tonight, it briefly looked as if cute Alexander Pritchett would get his cock out right in front of the front row, before changing his mind and zipping up again; at which point someone in the front row let out an undisguised "awwww" of disappointment. If it's getting to the point where the audience are happy to let the actors hear that they're mainly there for the strip show, then maybe it's time to have a bit of a think about what message you're sending?Boys' Plays
by Jack Heifner and Howard Walters is booking until the 16th of October at Above The Stag Theatre.
¹to be fair if they'd just seen Scott swinging his bits around and nearly hitting the back row, I think most
people would suddenly get a bit shy about competing