Something in the Air (Jermyn Street Theatre)

Posted: October 19, 2022 in Theatre
Photo: Steve Gregson

Writer: Peter Gill

Directors: Peter Gill and Alice Hamilton


“…the revolution’s here” proclaims Thunderclap Newman’s 1969 hit song, Something in the Air, which shares its title with Peter Gill’s short play, receiving its world premiere here. An octogenarian, Gill has been a leading light in British theatre for more than half a century and he finds himself well placed to assess a mostly peaceful social revolution in this elegy for people, places and ideals now half forgotten.

Colin (Ian Gelder) and Alex (Christopher Godwin), both in their late 70s,  sit side-by-side in large orange armchairs in what is, unmistakably, a nursing home. Occasionally, they hold hands and each takes a turn to reminisce while the other falls gently to sleep. They talk of walks along the riverside at Hammersmith and through the narrow streets of Soho, of living through the age of CND marches, rock ’n’ roll and liberation for  LGBTQ+ communities. We gather that they were once lovers and may be again now.

The old men are joined, unseen to them, by Gareth (Sam Thorpe-Spinks) and Nicholas (James Schofield), both in their early 20s, who seem to represent younger versions of themselves, partaking in on/off flirtations. They stand or sit on opposite sides of the stage, as if an invisible barrier has been erected in the middle, where Colin and Alex sit. Conversations overlap, creating an air of confusion and contradiction, indicating symptoms of dementia.

Alex’s son, Andrew (Andrew Woodall) and Colin’s niece, Clare (Claire Price) visit and sit, mainly motionless, facing their relatives. Indeed, the production, co-directed by Alice Hamilton and Gill himself, is, as a whole, largely static, leaving the writing and the vocal performances to do most of the work in selling the play to the audience.

Gelder and Godwin are both marvellous, finding the lyricism in Gill’s words with ease. However, the four subsidiary characters are underused by the writer and it becomes difficult to understand fully what purpose they serve. It feels as if Gill had planned a longer, more profound study of ageing and change in which these characters would have formed part of the narrative, but decided to settle for just a 65-minute taster.

Something in the Air is a poignant twilight play, touching on themes and covering territory which can be taken to be deeply personal to this significant writer. As such, the play cannot be dismissed lightly, even though it leaves behind a feeling of slight disappointment.

Performance date: 18 October 2022

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