The Glass Supper** (Hampstead Theatre Downstairs)

Posted: July 10, 2014 in Theatre

p.txtMartyn Hesford’s writing credits include a television bio-pic of Kenneth Williams and, although no-one actually talks in Polari in this new comedy, he extends a line of gay humour which stretches from Julian and Sandy in the 1960s through Larry Grayson to Julian Clary. In other words, Hesford extracts most of his laughs from mocking exaggerated stereotypes, but, sadly, the comedy is shallow and lacking in the kind of insight found in, for example, Kevin Elyot’s soon to be revived My Night With Reg, which features similar characters and situations. Marcus (Michael Begley) is boring, fussy about stains on his John Lewis carpet and touchy about his expanding paunch; understandably, his partner of 20 years, Colin (Owen Sharpe) has turned to drugs. They have moved recently to a cottage in Hampshire and their solitude is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of a gruff businessman, Steven (Michael Feast) with his promiscuous and very camp 18 year old toy boy, Jamie (Alex Lawther). The two couples had met on a cruise a year earlier and enjoyed each other’s company in every sense. The visitors also bring in tow Steven’s slutty and coarse ex-wife, Wendy, played with relish by Michelle Collins, who looks as if she could well build a fruitful post-soap career in theatre. Hesford offers a flimsy explanation for Wendy’s presence, but, in effect, she is little more than a catalytic device for getting the comedy moving. It would be dishonest to deny that a lot of what follows is very funny, particularly when Collins is in full drunken flow during the raucous second act, but the absence of any real depth leads to a guilty feeling whilst laughing, like when watching an old episode ‘Allo, ‘Allo. Intermittently entertaining this play is for sure, but, if there were to be any suggestion that these irksome characters represent 21st Century gay lifestyles accurately, it could be enough to nudge even the most liberal minded of Hampstead audiences in the direction of homophobia.

Performance date: 8 July 2014

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