By Oskar Brown
50 minutes with no interval
Between, ‘a play about love, sex and everything in-between’, is an engrossing and highly charged play that has returned to the King’s Head Theatre after a successful run in August 2014. It’s emotional, visceral and at times very funny, and is a great way to spend 50 minutes.
‘Sex is for women and fags’ says a bolshy South African teenager whilst grappling with feelings he can’t quite explain. In Between, sex is a large thrust behind each conversation. Writer and actor Oskar Brown plays a vaguely autobiographical character at various stages of his sexual journey and is more than matched by co-star Nicholas Campbell. Both players attack each role with passion and the performances feel fresh and emotional.
They seem completely at home in their characters, and they each confidently portray three distinct ages in a clear way that’s easy to follow. This is no mean feat considering the pace of the play.
The story bounces between three main scenes of sexual conflict. We dart between school boys struggling to explore their sexuality, a couple at the end of a relationship and a sexually charged interchange between an actor and his acting coach. There is a very believable intimacy between the two actors, and at times you’re surprised about the abrupt ending to scenes. That said, a lot of thought has gone into the scene changes, which ooze palpable sexual tension as the actors fling their clothes off with locked eye contact.
The stories are engrossing and explore fear, awkwardness, anger, jealousy, shame, abuse as well as abandonment of all of the above. Often the tone treads the line between comedy and pity, as we see the school boys fumble around awkwardly and tease themselves with the familiar need to grow up too quickly. There are some squirm-enducing laughs in the teenage scenes. It’s not all about sex and masturbation though, as there’s a detailed look at some of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Brown’s script holds you throughout, and feels very comfortable slipping into Shakespeare in a very relevant way.
There are lots of shades of blue in Hyland’s design. The blue scattered sonnets that cover the floor are bright against the muted blue tones of the costumes. This is a play about boys and men, which hints at questions about where being gay fits in.
At 50 minutes it did feel a little too short, as the piece leaves unanswered questions about the characters and their journeys. The link between the three story strands is deliberately ambiguous, and it might have been useful to have a bit more signposting here, to answer some of those questions. But this feels like a minor point, as Between stands strong as a fun, intimate and intense look at relationships.
**** – 4 stars
On at King’s Head Theatre (London) until 14 March 2015
Box Office: 0207 478 0160
(C) Dan Farrell 2015