Sunday, 23 October 2022

REVIEW: A Single Man at Park Theatre 200

Where historical snapshots are concerned 1962 was a momentous year. John F. Kennedy was US President and the Beatles released their first single. Marilyn Monroe died and the 1960s, as we came to understand them, were about to be unleashed. In October the Cuban Missile Crisis threatened Armageddon. East and West were locked in a deadly game of brinkmanship as the world held its breath. Set against this backdrop is a tale of love and loss hidden in plain sight. Based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man was turned into a successful film starring Colin Firth in 2009. This stage adaptation by Simon Reade now finds a natural home at Park Theatre.

George (Theo Fraser Steele) is an expatriate English professor in Los Angeles. He is still coming to terms with the loss of his partner Jim in a road accident the previous year. The story follows one day in his life, beginning just like any other. George still feels like an Englishman abroad even after 20 years on the West Coast. His neighbours are ever inquisitive about this erudite gentleman in their midst. Archetypal American couple the Strunks (Phoebe Pryce and Freddie Gaminara) wonder what happened to his 'friend' Jim. George is content to let them think he just moved away rather than explain his melancholy. He constantly fights loneliness and leans on fellow ex-pat Charley (Olivia Darnley) for comfort. However, his attentions are increasingly diverted by handsome, talkative pupil Kenny (Miles Molan).

Even though the story has already received the big screen treatment it suits the stage just as well. The intimate set is sparsely populated with props that quickly double up as they are quickly moved into position for each scene. So the visual fuss is minimal and allows the narrative to breathe. The cast delivers well-controlled performances in a piece that sets the historical context from the outset. The supporting characters move gently around George as insights reveal progressively more of a complex persona. Theo Fraser Steele is in commanding form and owns the role of George. His striking resemblance to Colin Firth does him no harm and provides a useful reference point to the film. Quite simply, an excellent adaptation of a great novel that feels refreshed almost 60 years after it was published. Another smash hit for the Park Theatre and further proof their quality control department is working its socks off.

Review by Brian Penn

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: D9 | Price of Ticket: £33/£29 concessions

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