Reviewed for [The Stage](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/14995/gates-of-gold)
Trafalgar Studios 2, London
Author: Frank McGuinness
Director: Gavin McAlinden
Producer: Charm Offensive
Cast: William Gaunt, Paul Freeman, Michelle Fairley, Josie Kidd, Ben Lambert
Running time: 1hr 25mins (no interval)
It is somehow appropriate that in presenting a fictionalised version of Irish theatrical couple Hilton Edwards and Michael MacLiammoir, Frank McGuinness presents us with a troupe of characters who are often unable to distinguish fact from fiction in their own lives.
William Gaunt, as frail actor Gabriel in his last days, dominates the stage. Through his bickering with uptight partner Conrad (Paul Freeman), we glimpse a relationship that has survived through love but not without bitterness and resentment. Michelle Fairley refuses to let Gabriel’s nurse, Alma, to be drawn as either saint or angel of mercy. Her confrontation with Gabriel’s nephew Ryan (an occasionally over-stiff Ben Lambert) leaves us no wiser as to whether she intends to hasten her charge’s departure.
Indeed, throughout the play it is hard for both characters and audience to establish what is fact and what is reality. This mostly works, although Gaunt’s soliloquy about what it was like to be blackmailed for being openly gay loses its impact under such a structure. The faults, though, are outweighed by the conclusion, with a dying Gabriel in his partner’s arms, calling out for one final fantasy. Conrad’s resulting speech – “Two men met. They had a marriage. It lasted” – has nothing untrue about it and brings to an end a remarkable evening of theatre.