This project is a collaboration between Manchester School of Theatre’s graduate class of 2011, and the Royal Exchange. It is a first for both parties. The Exchange have initiated this project, as a way to keep on developing UK drama school talent. Therefore, giving the new graduates a chance to gain invaluable experience working on a professional and renowned stage! What better platform. Thumbs up to The Royal Exchange!
Lets get on with the review of Single Sex by Rory Mullarkey. This was the first of the double bill, and by far my favourite! A story that follows Greg, a first class student of an All Boys Grammar School. You can predict his typical life; ludicrous Latin lessons, boisterous bullies, drooling over damsels and protective parents. But, trust me, there are deeper issues slowly taking control in this play.
So, the lights went down and we witnessed smart young boys reciting Latin. There is a short monologue by an obviously upper class student, explaining their routine life at school. Until you are hit smack bang in the face with another students vulgar description of sex! It comes out of nowhere, and sets the tone for the rest of the play. There is tonnes of crude language to work alongside the cleverly structured and fast paced dialogue. Laughter filled the Studio, ricocheted off the walls and the actors bounced off this with more comedy timing.
I would like to commend Kevin Lennon (The Father – Philip) on his brilliant portrayal of a pushy parent. He paired down to earth fathering, with that sense of awkwardness with your son. The script obviously plays a major part in the humour, but the acting is what really sells the ‘funny’. And I bought thousands of pounds worth of ‘funny’ off him, especially in the uncomfortable father/son ‘sex talk’ scene. Lennox has a powerful stage presence with the talent to match.
However, as I mentioned before, there is a dark seed planted in this play. A seed that starts off very innocent, but slowly grows into a monster. And I feel that dark seed is a poem by Ovid (Roman Poet) that they mention. It plays a subtle but integral part in the movement of the story.
Gregg is teased about sex, as many teenage lads are. His mate encourages him to watch porn, but Gregg sees it as lifeless. He wants love, and he finds this in one of Ovids poems. But Ovid is famous for writing about sex and violence. A bad combination in most peoples eyes. He starts over analysing Ovid’s poetry, and over thinking the idea of sex. Suddenly he takes an interest in ‘borderline rape’ videos.
He becomes obsessed with his idea of what sex ‘should’ be. He recites, ‘she thought she didn’t want it but she does.’ The innocent inclusion of poetry in education, results into corrupting a boys mind. Art isn’t life, but you can’t tell that to a confused boy engrossed in such poetry. I warn you, some of these scenes are disturbing and I found them hard to watch.
Which isn’t a criticism, more a compliment as it shows the strength of the script and actors!
The minimal style stage, helped us focus in on the acting. Sarah Frankcom (Director) really played around with the empty space, and kept the energy up through dismissing scene changes. The actors smoothly ran into each scene by performing their line immediately, keeping the plays movement fluid; a perfect marriage with the quick paced dialogue.
Sam Lupton (Gregg) was a stand out. His slow character transformation was excellently performed, etching his obsessive nature up a notch each scene. He portrayed both the childhood innocence and manhood obsessiveness with passion. His eyes told the story, as much as his voice and physicality. Keep an eye out for that one!
So, on the surface a witty, laugh out loud play about teenage life. Underneath lies a truly disturbing and twisted tale of obsession. If you dare to watch this play, get ready for an emotional ride! Go on, buy a ticket and strap yourself in tightly!