What’s Wrong With Angry?

When does a drama that’s written about contemporary issues stop being about now, and start to be nostalgic? And once it’s nostalgic, how long until we become so detached that it becomes a historical piece that can talk to us about how we live today?

The answers to both questions are, of course, somewhat fluid, but they do give some indication of the two stools between which _What’s Wrong With Angry?_, the 1993 play which is currently being revived at the King’s Head in Islington, falls.

Patrick Wilde’s script revolves around two very different sixteen-year-old boys who both attend the same single-sex Catholic school. Steven Carter is fey, bullied and out to his best friend, Linda; John Westhead is the cocksure, laddish head boy who dates girls, but sneaks off for encounters with men and doesn’t really know where either head or heart is at.

So far, so familiar, if not even hackneyed. Although if you’re thinking the setup is remarkably similar to feature film _Get Real_, there’s a reason — the movie was based upon the play. And to be honest, if you’re going to spend an evening in the company of a script by Patrick Wilde, I’d choose the film over the theatre version.

Part of the problem is that there is too strong a desire to preserve the theatrical piece in aspic. When a director revives a production that he both wrote and directed on its original run, as in this case, it seems that fidelity to that production takes precedence over speaking to a present-day audience.

There are good points within the production: notably, the central performances from Oliver Jack and Christopher Birks and one or two of the supporting actors. However, Charlie Deans has been badly let down by being miscast as Linda. Steven’s best friend is described throughout as being fat, but Deans is bordering on petite. As if to compensate, Deans plays the role much larger than the tiny King’s Head can accommodate, often neutralising the realistic portrayals that Jack and Birks provide.

In addition, Nic Gilder as gay schoolteacher Simon, who cannot help Steven for fear of falling foul of Section 28, is the weakest element of the whole play. Not once does he connect with the script he’s given. We end up not with a portrayal of a man in torment, but a recitation of lines with no heart and no emotion.

After _Fucking Men_ and _Naked Boys Singing_, it appears that the King’s Head is trying to stake a claim as a venue for gay theatre. I haven’t seen either of those productions, but can only hope they are better than _What’s Wrong With Angry?_. And if it wants to enhance its reputation, its next gay production will be vital.

Author: Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.

3 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With Angry?”

  1. Get Real was one of the first LGBT films I saw in the cinema, so it's rather special for me and I have a VHS copy of it (it has yet to come out on DVD in this country, if it ever will). I think it's regarded as inferior to Beautiful Thing, which also flits between its film and live versions.

    As for F**king Men, please do try to see it. I've seen it twice, both times with straight friends, and find it funny, powerful, moving and perhaps even revealing.

  2. PS I reiterate everything Twitterish, you're completely right about Charlie Deans and Nic Gilder, the leads were indeed doing sterling work, pity about the play – and Fucking Men is worth an evening trip though I don't think Naked Boys Singing is really worth your time.