The Pleasance Theatre
By Alan Flanagan
‘I love being a boy’ proclaims Cormac in a personal response to getting off with other men, this all within the opening minutes of Bingo, a new play by Alan Flanagan. This production is not only refreshingly queer sex positive but also explores the homing pigeon nature of being from Irish blood and most importantly lets us into a world where we see a young man contract HIV and just about every other STI and STD in the book.
Flanagan as a performer has a good command of language, with a lack of pretence. In a sense the way he speaks is for the people. Cormac is not a character but a real person talking to us; he is not adhering, expectant or elitist; this is something not showcased enough in British theatre. There were some patches of monotony in the action and I may not have got all the guts that were potentially in the piece but I did get a lot of heart and soul.
Flanagan’s writing is the strength of the show and the journey switches between past memories of family, Ireland, boyhood, sex and a more present day context of contracting HIV. The script went from strength to strength and the finer detail really lay in the foray into abstract fantasies. Cormack at one point divulges his obsession with the actress Amy Adams in where he goes to her house and smashes her head open pulls out her brain and rubs it all over himself to become the ‘genius’ that she is. There is also a beautiful motif of a TFL DLR blow up steering wheel enwrapped in a story between Cormac and his GP that took on a greater meaning about how we connect to each other and the unorthodox relationships we share.
The sex positive nature of Cormac gave the production a progressive element. He speaks about sex freely and his nonchalant attitude toward sodomy was blunt and to the point. This urged the audience to remove their sex taboo and allowed us to think about the pleasure of having and enjoying sex in whatever way you want to “It feels good to fuck and it feels good when you do it like an animal”.
Direction wise the work could have benefited from more creative expression. I would have liked to see Hutton’s influence take Cormac through a greater range of experiences physically and emotionally as at times the layers and shifts of the converging storylines were lost within the action. I felt the need for further conceptualisation and in moments wanted a directorial push on the performer to go deeper as Cormac’s responses to what he was going through occasionally felt surface bound.
Bingo is appropriately humorous, enough for you to laugh at without taking away from the serious more political undertones of the play, it is honest, uplifting and had strong colloquial and physiological writing that you wanted to fall further into. The gay character profiling was not revolutionary but I did believe Cormac, his story and was on his team. I found myself amused, intrigued and walked away with a lasting impression of this mans journey.
Bingo is showing at The Pleasance Theatre until 24th June. Book now.
© Bj McNeill 2018