Reviving his own adaptation of William Sutcliffe’s novel of adolescent lust and denial, director Russell Labey crafts a frequently hilarious tale of confused sexuality.
Gregg Lowe is effective as the obliviously attractive Barry, whose burgeoning sexual life drives the story forward as his best friend Mark (Nicholas Hoult) struggles with his feelings and his attitudes to sexuality.
Mel Giedroyc’s teacher, the only adult in the cast but who acts just as childishly about sex, does her best to steal the show with a riotously sultry monologue as she confesses about her affair with Barry to her sixth form French class. She nearly succeeds, but the fact that such an accomplished comedian does not overpower the whole production is testament to the quality of the rest of the cast, including Ciara Janson and Phil Matthews as the main characters’ siblings.
But it is Hoult upon whom most of the play’s burden rests, and here he shows a deft skill that elevates the role of the sexually confused Mark to great heights. He displays a fine sense of both comic timing and physical comedy that make the character much warmer and more engaging than he is on the page.
Hoult’s performance helps gloss over some of the play’s faults, most notably events near the play’s conclusion that jeopardise the friendship between Mark and Barry. Labey’s adaptation still removes most of the hints that, in Sutcliffe’s book, allow the reader to see what Mark cannot: on stage, Barry’s revelations are at least hinted at more strongly than in the original Pleasance production of this play, but this part of the story lacks the subtlety that infuses the rest of an otherwise great production.
Reviewed for The Stage