There are moments during this short play by Martin Lewton that seem to border on genius, only to be followed by several more moments of utter bewilderment.
Spencer Charles Noll and Ruaraidh Murray play gay couple Donald and Jim, who celebrate the first anniversary of their civil partnership by re-enacting tales of two Victorian cross-dressers and their relationship with Lord Arthur Clinton. The court case of Edward ‘Stella’ Boulton and Frederick ‘Fanny’ Park, while little known today, is something of a landmark case in the course of England’s ambivalent attitude to homosexuality, and is one of the first recorded instances of the word drag being used in its now familiar sense. Lewton’s script presents the case in an interesting way, only failing to work when he tries to create parallels to 21st century gay life in Britain.
Noll in particular displays a flair for character transformation, playing each of his multiple roles with precision – a quality useful for an audience that has to cope with a story that bounces around time frames and storylines at a fair pace.
Murray has the harder problem, coping with a contemporary character who is saddled with a neurosis about his own homosexuality that comes and goes at a whim. His fear of being outed at work seems out of place with his modern London lifestyle in a way that devalues any sense of peril the script tries to imply. The faults with the creation of that character are ultimately this otherwise promising play’s undoing.
_Reviewed for [The Stage](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/27439/lord-arthurs-bed)_
King’s Head Theatre, London, March 2-April 10
Author/director: Martin Lewton
Producer: Theatre North
Cast: Spencer Charles Noll, Ruaraidh Murray
Running time: 1hr 10mins