Sunday, 19 January 2020

REVIEW: Four Play at the Above the Stag Theatre

Above the Stag is always a warm and friendly LGBTQIA+ theatre based in Vauxhall, that has newly renovated their studio theatre over Christmas. The revival of Jake Brunger’s ‘Four Play’ marks the first show in this newly improved space, and what a fantastic show to start off with. 

The story revolves around Rafe and Pete, a monogamous couple who’ve been together for 7 (and a half) years, who want to explore sleeping with someone else. Asking their acquaintance Michael (who’s in an open relationship with Andrew) to help them out by sleeping with them both, what could possibly go wrong?

In this day and age, it’s refreshing to watch an LGBTQIA+ show that is not reliant upon nudity to sell it, and the portrayal of all body shapes on stage. It is rare to see such diversity of all kinds on the stage and I am so glad that Above the Stag are putting shows like this on stage. With shows like the Inheritance, Tumulus and now Four Play, they are putting on the map that LGBTQIA+ writing is quality and relevant for everyone! For this I can only commend Above the Stag.

Four Play’s writing is simply excellent. The show explores very realistic gay men issues of relationship types (open and monogamous), the maintaining of image and body confidence, all whilst maintaining humour and sincerity throughout. A particularly funny line from last night was ‘Everyone’s watch porn. (My nan’s watched porn)’, which combines Brunger’s wit with social observations.

Matthew Iliffe has made the most of the stage (simply but effectively designed by Carrie-Ann Stein), clearly working well with a solid creative team and giving well thought through blocking. A particular stand out of this was the effectiveness of the many scene changes and their fluidity due to great direction and Jack Weir’s clever lighting design. That said, for a couple of moments through the show I would have loved more subtlety, and I wasn’t taken by the very very end moment, which felt like more of a cheap laugh moment in quite a beautiful scene. 

When it came to the acting, Marc MacKinnon’s Andrew was a standout. He made the script flow from the beginning and truly brought the most out of each line, with natural comedy and beautiful vulnerability that was a joy to watch! The chemistry between the actors was very apparent too and shone through in the latter half of the show. However, I felt at points the acting was forced from some of the actors, and a bit robotic in other places, although it got better as the play went on.

Overall, Four Play is definitely well worth seeing, and whilst it’s not perfect it has moments that are genius and I believe this is an important play for this day and age! 

Review by Adam Yorke

Rating: ★★★

Seat: B5 | Price of Ticket: £25
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