Sidney Fox’s Crime (Above the Stag Theatre)

Posted: April 22, 2022 in Theatre
Photo: PBGstudios

Writer and director: Glenn Chandler

⭐️⭐️⭐️

There are countless examples of injustices against homosexual men in the years up to the 1960s. Many have been officially acknowledged and rectified in small part with posthumous pardons, but others lie buried more deeply in the annals of legal history. Writer/director Glenn Chandler sets out to throw light on one such case with his gripping, but slightly ambiguous 70-minute drama.

In the 1920s, Sidney Fox travels around South-East England with his mother, staying either in hotels without paying the bills or, in his case, in prison. The story begins with the young man standing accused of matricide by setting fire to Mum’s Margate hotel room a few hours before an insurance policy on her life is due to expire. The play asks whether he can possibly get a fair trial when prejudice against his class and sexual orientation are stacking the odds so heavily against him.

Sidney Fox is a prostitute, an habitual thief and a compulsive liar, so what’s not to like about him? Sebastian Calver counters the facts by making the character a loveable rogue, exuding boyish charm; this is all fine, except that there are few signs of the steel that Sidney would have needed to come through in his tough lifestyle. His close relationship with his mother, Rosaline (his “pal”), is touching and amusing, Amanda Bailey giving her maternal warmth and, crucially, a twinkle of mischief in the eye.

Mark Curry plays Cassels, a barrister who is not quite a fully paid-up member of the establishment, but who plays their game anyway, rounding off Chandler’s solid production. The audience is being asked to act as a jury, judging not guilt or innocence, but whether or not the trial process is fair. The whole point of the drama is to demonstrate the existence of prejudice, but does Chandler make his case beyond reasonable doubt? In Scotland, where this play premiered in 2021, the verdict would be “not proven”.

Performance date: 21 April 2022

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