Date Reviewed: 10th February, 2009
Venue: The Deaf Institute
Writer/ Director Chris Hoyle has assembled an experienced cast for his debut play The Newspaper Boy. Together with the slightly off the beaten track, but very full venue this creates a feeling of expectation which the play and performances largely fulfil.
Teenage soap TV star Christian (William Rush) falls from grace when he is outed by the media. Unlike his lover Max (David Jillings) Christian is below the age of consent for gay men- which was 21 at the time when the play is set. Hoyle takes a refreshingly non-judgemental approach to this sensitive subject reserving his criticism for those he regards as behaving like hypocrites. The same media which condemns the lovers promotes the hedonistic 1990s lifestyle which helped their relationship develop. The producers of the TV soap refuse to support Christian at the same time as they are introducing increasing spicy storylines into the series.
The extent to which Max could be a sexual predator is examined but ultimately the decision is left to us. Jillings initially gives the role a seductive edge. Placing an ‘e’ tablet on Christian’s tongue as if offering a strawberry to Tess of the D’ Urbervilles. Later, however, he becomes increasingly aware of the gravity of his actions and examines if they can be justified. Rush plays Christian as someone aware of his sexual identity even at a young age and, influenced by the hedonistic times, he confidently takes control of the relationship. Although this may sound like the writer is dodging the issue it is rather an acknowledgement of the realistic complexity of the relationship.
Hoyle achieves a strong sense of time and place with limited resources, partly due to some very fine actors. Anthony Crank and Victoria Stowcroft give almost subhuman performances to re-create a drugged-out night at the Hacienda. Joan Kempson may not always get the lines she deserves but has impeccable comic timing. Kirsten Cassidy finds depth in Mandy a character who ,in less skilled hands, could be a shallow party girl.
Suranne Jones is Christian’s mum : increasingly out of her depth and guiltily aware that his reckless behaviour may be the result of her inadequate supervision and parenting skills. For one so young William Rush gives remarkable performance in a very difficult role. His voice may occasionally lack inflection but he conveys the character’s sense of identity whilst showing also his need for support from his family.
The impression formed by the evening is one of having seen something special, probably because we have.
Let’s hope The Newspaper Boy returns because as a poignant drama, it truly delivers.