Bank Holiday Monday and I was whisked back to the 1960s last night.
A time when Woolies was still a thing, Donovan was number 3 in the charts and who you loved or even just fancied could consign you to a prison cell and a place of deep shame and castigation in society.
All I See is You is first and foremost a love story.
It’s also a two hander, starring Ciaran Griffiths as Bobby and Christian Edwards as Ralph, both gay, both living different lives.
Bobby, gregarious yet inexperienced, soon embraces his sexuality, albeit in a society where homosexuality was a criminal act and measures must be taken. This is largely aided by acceptance in his family (Dad dealing it with through denial) and guidance from his also gay boss on the record counter at Woolies.
Ralph, however, while more experienced, is retreating further into society ‘norms’; his chosen career as a teacher and his more strait-laced family, leading to common measures of that cruel era, from typically taking a girlfriend to the more extreme of aversion therapy.
Written by Kathrine Smith, this two hander about concealing love and sexuality ironically leaves nowhere to hide.
In the 70 minute performance, all eyes and literal spotlight is on the actors. Aided only by brief insertions of musical memories from the era and simple yet effective lighting, the acting is the thing.
No props, just a stage and its actors.
There is a mix of inner thought monologue to the audience and performance between the two actors. In short, it is a privilege to bear witness to such talent in the intimate setting that fabulous fringe theatre allows.
The silences saying as much as the dialogue, the actors connect with the audience to the degree that you’re with them down ‘The Trafford’ as they enjoy a drink together in the shadows, in Ralph’s bedroom as his father appears at the door, on the hospital ward as…I’ll leave it there.
The contrast between the two characters’ lives is akin to their demeanours and personalities on stage.
Bobby (Griffiths) brings the passion, the comedic, the unabashed enthusiasm, the physical…Ralph (Edwards) brings the maturity, the considered, the pathos, the…passion.
Together the characters and indeed the actors bring smiles and tears, joy and heartache and a reminder of how far the lgbt community has had to come and what they’ve had to battle – all just to be in love.
Written in response to the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, I urge you to go and be entertained, moved, and reminded that while the U.K. has come this far, many countries (and indeed individuals) still have not.
Visit https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/all-i-see-is-you/ for more information and to book.
On until Saturday 1 June, don’t miss out.