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Friday, August 5th, 2022

Queerguru’s Andrew Hebden reviews a new production of STRAIGHT AND NARROW

Straight and Narrow    ☆☆☆
Above The Stag Theatre. London

 

There is something jarring about Straight and Narrow, currently running at the Above the Stag Theatre. Written by Jimmie Chinn and heralding the directorial debut of Mark Curry it takes a moment to realize what it is. Set in the 1980s and first performed in the West End in the early 90s it occupies that odd space in which something is noticeably out of fashion through today’s eyes but has not yet made it to period piece status. It is a play that highlights how much queer theatre has changed in 30 years. The current focus on the diversity of identity politics and the representation of all the letters of the LGBTQIA+ is unimagined here.  Straight and Narrow is from that moment when there was imperative, pre-marriage equality, to demonstrate that gay male relationships were equivalent to their heterosexual counterparts. Hetero normative storylines were to 90s gay theatre what the ombre dye job was to noughties hairstyles.

And so, we have the comic tale of Bob (Lewis Allcock) and Jeff (Todd Von Joel), who have been together just as long as Bob’s straight sisters have been married. They are all very conventional and alert to what other people might think of them. The two men share a home and a business and experience many of the same relationship problems that Bob’s sisters have with their husbands. All are working out how much of their personal desires have to be sacrificed for the comforting benefits of coupledom. The main difference is that gay Jeff sees an affair with a woman as the chance to fulfill his dream of fatherhood whereas the sister’s husbands see it as the opportunity to experience a new pair of boobs. 

Despite the story being centered on Bob and Jeff, the heart of the comedy is from two female characters. Vera (Carol Royle), Bob’s mother, creates chaos through her inability to recognize that her son is in a gay relationship. Lois (Kerry Enright), is the sister who valiantly tries to strip the other characters of their self-delusion. Vera and Lois are both well-delivered spotlight-stealing roles with good one-liners, though the unchallenged casual racism of Vera‘s references to ‘darkies’ and gypsies made the audience flinch. 

At one point Bob refers to his mother as ‘a little woman, with a little mind, in a little world’ and it neatly sums up why the play is called Straight and Narrow. It is an oddly specific moment in time that now seems increasingly alien, it may have once been seen as a universal comparison between heterosexual and gay relationships but now seems like a curiosity of its time and place for both of them.

 

Review by ANDREW HEBDEN

Queerguru Contributing Editor ANDREW HEBDEN is a MEDIA & CULTURAL STUDIES graduate spending his career between London, Beijing, and NYC as an expert in media and social trends. As part of the expanding minimalist FIRE movement, he recently returned to the UK and lives in Soho. He devotes as much time as possible to the movies, theatre, and the gym. His favorite thing is to try something (anything) new every day.


Posted by queerguru  at  12:25

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