All in the Body

An acquaintance with Myalgic Encephomyelitis, on telling a friend about her condition, was asked, almost reflexively “Do you really have ME or is it just depression?”  The same woman had to change doctor at her NHS practice recently (her regular doctor being on long-term sick leave).  The new doctor expressed great surprise that her condition had not been cured by anti-depressants (but was otherwise sympathetic).  These two incidents exemplify two of the main issues raised in Angela Kennedy’s excellent book: firstly that chronic illnesses for which no clear medical cause is identifiable are often classed by medical practitioners as psychogenic (psychosomatic), and secondly the detrimental effects such classification can have on the patient’s treatment, not only medically, but by society at large.

To a large extent this work is a literature review, or perhaps a meta-analysis, of existing and previous research.  Which is all to the good, as a large amount of the extant results seem to have been misreported and misinterpreted by the (popular and scientific) press.  Although Angela focuses on ME/CFS, the conclusions are applicable to a much wider range of conditions.  Of interest is the fact that (or so it seems to me), a disproportionate amount of the case studies, both historically and more recently, are those of women.  Ms Kennedy gives an interesting personal account of how her GP informed her in no uncertain terms that she was having a “hysterical pregnancy” when she attended the surgery after having completed a home pregnancy test.  Her ‘hysterical’ son is now a grown man!

The book begins by pointing out the fallacies associated with psychogenic explanations: the reason for a condition being “medically unexplained” is usually down to limitations with current medical knowledge.  Attaching such terminology to certain diseases can also lead to shutting down further avenues of investigation, often with severely detrimental results.  A convincing argument in the introduction is that: “The present lack of critical examination of this conjecture (that ME is a modern version of neurasthenia) is also not a reason to accept this conjecture: no scholarship has yet been performed to suggest CFS and ME are not caused by demonic possession, for example, but this should not mean therefore that they are caused by such, even if such a reason might be ‘persuasive’ to some.”

Ms Kennedy goes to discuss “problems of psychogenic explanations in action:” the beliefs that certain types of people get certain types of illness, with a particular emphasis on the diagnosis and labelling of people with ME.  The following chapter deals with doctors’ attitudes to such patients, often labelled as “heartsink,” containing some shocking examples of patients labelled as lazy, malingering and hypochondriac.

“Think yourself better” explores the dangers of CBT when put forward as a cure, rather than a coping mechanism for ME, whilst “Consequences of psychogenic explanations” looks into how such explanations can be widely damaging for the patient, both in the hands of the medical profession, as well as at the hands of society at large.

Angela concludes that the trend towards labelling illness as psychogenic is on the increase, and that this is a dangerous direction to be heading in: “(the realities of psychogenic explanations) are most often fallacious in their logic and informed by harmful ideologies.  They cause actual harm in many ways.”

This is a very significant book about a highly important aspect of medicine which has detrimental effects on many of us.  Angela Kennedy has taken what is evident in the literature and research, and reported it in a non-biased way, thus giving us access to serious evidence against the psychogenic theory of illness such as ME/CFS which has been ignored by many other publications, and certainly the popular press.

I advise anyone with an interest in ME, CFS, other neurological or fatigue-related illness, as well as those interested in the whole mind/body connection issue as concerns disease, to read this book.  It can be purchased from www.amazon.co.uk for £17.59.

Mary Tynan

Angela Kennedy Angela Kennedy is a social sciences lecturer and researcher at a number of universities in London, and author of numerous articles, papers and books in lay, professional and academic media over a 30 year career.

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Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Go Back to Victorian London

The Legend of Springheel’d Jack – Series II of The Springheel Saga

Once again, Wireless Theatre Company has produced an energising, bewitching, atmospheric piece of radio.  Opening seven years after the end of the last series, we are immediately dropped into the thick of the action and the pace does not let up throughout the three episodes.  The Doctor Who references this time seem to me more subtle, and at the same time wider-reaching.  The sound landscape played a large part in this (I’m sure I heard a tardis at a couple of points!), especially the incidental music provided by Cameron K McEwan.  Without giving too much away, much of the story revolves around a mysterious box, whose origins, it turns out, involve transwarp drive.  The box’s final destination is reminiscent of another cult classic – Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The storytelling remains first-class  Writing for radio holds its own special challenges, as the conversations have to tell most of the story, without being too obvious or lessening the impact of the characters as individuals, and this was managed seemingly effortlessly by Gareth Parker and Robert Valentine.  However, in this series, they have added the device of a narrator, who is also a character in the story (James M. Rymer, wonderfully played by John Holden White) and this proved to be very effective.  As before, the dialogue is outstanding throughout; with priceless lines such as “the tears that rolled down his cheeks behind the large false beard.”

The acting was superb.  Christopher Finney reprised his role of Jonas Smith with aplomb, John Holden White, as James M Rymer, was an excellent addition to the cast, and Nicholas Parson was wonderful as Cuthbert Leach.  However, my personal favourite this time was Josephine Timmons, as Lizzie Coombe.  She was believable on so many different levels (it was a complicated character); totally sympathetic and a pleasure to listen to throughout.  Casting was by Jack Bowman, who also had a small but effective cameo, but whose major contribution is in the production and the superb writing (under his pseudonym of Gareth Parker).  The excellent direction was by co-writer Robert Valentine, who was also part of the production team, along with Mariele Runacre-Temple.

The Legend of Springheel’d Jack is in three episodes: The Terror of London; The Carnival of Horrors and The Engine of Doom.  Each of these can be downloaded from http://www.wirelesstheatrecompany.co.uk.  Series III – The Secret of Springheel’d Jack – is planned for an August/September release.  I’ll be listening!

Previously published in Blogtor Who.

Nobody Does It Better

The Diary of a Nobody at the King’s Head Theatre, 20 January 2015 – 14 February 2014

The Diary of a Nobody, the story of Charles Pooter, was published as a series of articles and illustration in Punch during the late 19th Century, and was written by brothers George and Weedon Grossmith.  There have been numerous stage, screen and radio adaptations over the intervening years, often differing wildly in interpretation, for instance Keith Waterhouse’s play, featuring Judy Dench and Michael Williams, told the story from the point of view of Pooter’s wife Carrie.

As would be expected, Rough Haired Pointer have their own take on the story.  This starts with the design (Karina Nakaninsky and Christopher Hone): both set and costumes are constructed to resemble the black and white drawings in the original work.  Secondly, the adaptation and direction (Mary Franklin) splits the action between four characters in an interesting way (the narration, as Pooter, is shared by all four, for instance), and thirdly the sheer madcap mayhem and silliness of the production was extremely refreshing.

The cast consisted of four male actors, which did add slightly to the Pythonesque atmosphere of the piece, although I’m sure it could work equally well with women also.  Jake Curran played Charles Pooter throughout, which lent a much needed anchor to the play, amidst the constantly changing characters around him.  He did an excellent job of conveying both poignancy and humour.  Jordan Mallory-Skinner played Carrie throughout, although he did morph briefly into three other characters.  Again, he gave a sympathetic and amusing portrayal of the character, and, although not dragged up in any way other than the costume and a pair of earrings, at times I found myself forgetting he was not really a woman!

All the remaining characters were played by Geordie Wright and George Fouracres.  Wright did have a main character of sort, in Sarah, the maid, but he played many others also, and Fouracres was continually changing parts, although perhaps his role as Lupin, the Pooters’ son, is the one that most sticks in my mind.  These two actors contributed a lot of the over-the-top hilarity which was a characteristic of the production, and both displayed great comic flair, as indeed did Curran and Mallory-Skinner.  The chaotic fun was enhanced by the staging: little touches such as having the cast pour glasses of rice from a wine bottle and try to drink it, and the postman carrying a letter box with him as well as a letter to put through it.  There was also some audience participation involved.  In addition, there was quite a bit of corpsing, which strangely just made the play even funnier.

The Diary of a Nobody is closing at the King’s Head tonight, so do pop down and see it if you can, or look out for future productions (the current one is a transfer from the White Bear).  For more information, visit www.kingsheadtheatrepub.co.uk  or www.roughhairedpointer.com.

Photographs courtesy of Rocco Redondo

The Diary of a Nobody

Brilliant Brel

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris at the Charing Cross Theatre

You probably know more Jacques Brel songs than you think.  Ne Me Quitte Pas, anyone?  How about No Love You’re Not Alone (incorporated in David Bowie’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide)?  Terry Jacks’ Seasons in the Sun was Le Moribond with a new lyric, while Scott Walker had a hit record with Jacky in the late 1960s.

Singer songwriter Brel was born in Belgium in 1929, moving to Paris in 1953 to pursue his career in music.  Although he died young (aged 49) he left a remarkable legacy of chansons behind him, many of which focus on the darker side of life.  “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” a musical revue of his work, was first produced in New York in 1968.  The show reflects his strong anti-war stance, and features songs in English, French and Flemish.

The Charing Cross Theatre production has a heavy cabaret feel to it, which is all to the good.  The first half was enjoyable: Eve Polycarpou opened the show with Le Diable (Ca Va), followed by Daniel Boys and Gina Beck, who made a favourable first impression with If We Only Have Love. Musical Director and Pianist Dean Austin sang a brief solo with Le Moribond, and I particularly liked the closing number Amsterdam, powerfully sung by David Burt, which gave a flavour of what was to come after the interval.  I would have liked to hear some harmonies on The Desperate Ones, which was sung in unison by the full company, but by the time I got to the interval I was already impressed and looking forward to what was to follow.

Despite some feedback problems on the sound front, especially during “Middle Class” (which was a shame, as it was otherwise a very amusing number from David and Daniel), the second half blew me away.  Eve’s Ne Me Quitte Pas was profoundly moving, and Gina’s “My Death” totally rocked.  I’ve been lucky enough to see the wonderfully talented Camille O’Sullivan perform both of these, plus Amsterdam, live on more than one occasion, and Eve, Gina and David’s renditions in no way suffered by comparison.  Daniel Boys also gave a consistently strong performance throughout, with his Next being a particular standout.  Overall, the second half seemed to build to a final crescendo, with the full cast joining in for a reprise of If We Only Have Love at the end.

The four singers were ably supported on stage by band members James Cleeve, Felix Stickland, Doug Grannell and Richard Burden, as well as by Dean Austin as previously mentioned.  This excellent show was directed by Andrew Keates, and is well worth a viewing.

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris runs until 22 November 2014 at the Charing Cross Theatre, Monday – Saturday 7.45 pm, Saturday matinees 3pm.  Tickets are available from www.charingcrosstheatre.co.uk.

The Doors of Perception

John Middleton: Painting Works at the Coningsby Gallery, 9 -13 June 2014

Abstract art is, of course, all about perception. Almost always, the viewer sees the work through their own lens, and the resulting mental impression is, in effect, a collaboration between artist and observer. John Middleton’s show definitely gives the spectator a lot to absorb and think about; however there seem to me to be certain underlying themes to do with place, fluidity and possibility.

Doors are exciting, representing as they do the transition from one place to another. On entering the exhibition, the first picture to catch my eye was Doorway. With its central arrow, whose direction varied with your point of view, it seemed to say that our personal doorways can take us to many different places. Temple Doorway is another obvious example of the same theme. In a wonderful touch, the artist has used sand from a beach near the temple at Chichen-Itza to depict the building, yet it is the completely dark open doorway which draws the eye, suggesting the endless possibilities of the other side, and the journey from the physical to the spiritual which is evident throughout Middleton’s work. Nearby paintings complemented this idea. Path to the Temple suggests that either the rugged route or the direct path will lead you to the same destination, and Kimono, with its eye-catching gold square suggested a doorway filled with blindingly bright light.

Hanging side by side, The Pink Bird and The Green Bird were both inspired by Edward Lear. Strangely, although pink is a brighter colour, it was the latter which suggested Caribbean islands to me – perhaps because the bird was in flight, or maybe because green is the hue of vegetation and growth. Green is also a powerful colour in Idiosyncratic Pattern, which has shades of mother-of-pearl and has, to me, a 1970s feel, and asks the question “When is a pattern not a pattern?” This painting is also a good example of John’s fascination with flaws, rather than hiding them he likes to draw attention to them in an “X marks the spot” sort of way. The Last Sighting of Bigfoot deals wonderfully with the problem of making visible the invisible, while Henri’s Fish and Socks deceives the eye and plays with notions of depth and dimension.

Know Your Place seems to me to sum up the sense of myriad possibilities presented by this exhibition. Perhaps the empty space at the centre is for you; or you are one of the surrounding circles or even a small dot of colour right at the edge? The potentialities are endless as, I suspect, are the responses to John Middleton’s work – as varied as the works themselves. I have only touched briefly on the range of watercolours and drawings on display, but I found the whole to be impressive, engaging and stimulating.

For more information visit John’s website www.johnmiddleton.uk.com.
GreenBird

Open Houses in Hampstead

Hampstead's Village People, Fenton House (courtesy Sam Roberts) 7 Hampstead’s Village People: Portraits of Cultural Icons; Ryan Gander: The Artists have the Keys

On Friday, I payed a visit to two highly contrasting properties in Hampstead, where the National Trust were celebrating the opening of two new exhibitions.

First on the itinerary was Fenton House, which is hosting Hampstead’s Village People: Portraits of Cultural Icons, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery.  The photographs are tastefully housed in two rooms on the ground floor, and cover a range of artistically influential people from the area over the last 100-plus years.  I was particularly taken by the pictures of Daphne du Maurier and Cecil Beaton, as well as Peter Barkworth, whose writing had previously made a great impression on me.

Then it was on to explore the house.   I was intrigued to learn that 55 of the paintings on permanent display were bequeathed by Peter Barkworth, and there are some wonderful paintings in Fenton House.  There are also rather a lot of harpsichords – on average two per room on the first floor.  Glass cabinets full of china and what I would describe as knick-knacks in each room complete the eclectic collection.

Before leaving, my companion and I took a stroll about the gardens, which are well worth a visit.  Beautifully laid out, on several levels, they seemed to induce a sense of peace and serenity in me, especially seeing the spring flowers just starting to appear.

Ryan Gander at 2 Willow Road (courtesy Sam Roberts) 46Secondly, we visited 2 Willow Road, the home of architect Erno Goldfinger, for Ryan Gander’s The Artists have the Keys.  Gander has been interested in Goldfinger’s work since 2005, and he has approached the current exhibition in an extremely immersive fashion, almost as if he was asking what else might Goldfinger have added to the house himself.  Gander’s art is place amongst other objects in the property, and guest are given a list of which pieces are in which room, but with no other indication as to location.  I enjoyed this mini-challenge, which was similar to a live hidden-object game, at the same time as appreciating the house in it’s totality and all the other art contained within.  Gander’s work is very much in sympathy with the style of the place, which also hosts work by Bridget Reilly and Max Ernst, to name but two.  I particularly enjoyed Things just happen to me, a chess set inspired by components from a Bedford truck circa 1975.

I found the house itself fascinating, from the bed that folded up into a cupboard, to the sliding doors between rooms, to the photographs stuck inside the bathroom cabinet.  A couple of very helpful volunteers were kind enough to share their vast wealth of knowledge about Goldfinger, his wife, and the house with us, and I went away feeling stimulated and informed.  I couldn’t stop myself saying “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die,” at least once though!

Both Fenton House and 2 Willow road are open from 11am-5pm, Wednesdays to Sundays (last admission 4.30pm), but entry to 2 Willow road prior to 3pm is by tour only.  For more information and admission prices, please visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk or telephone 020 7435 3471 (Fenton House) or 020 7435 6166 (2 Willow Road).

 

Photographs courtesy of Sam Roberts.

Mary Tynan

Short but Sweet

The Fat Man's Wife 5 - courtesy Simon AnnandCanal Cafe Theatre presents The Fat Man’s Wife by Tennessee Williams

It is always intriguing to hear about a “new” play from a celebrated dead playwright.  Although written in 1938, The Fat Man’s Wife remained unproduced throughout Williams’ lifetime, having its first staging in New York in 2004.  This is its first UK production.  Despite the excitement of the new, however, there is also slight suspicion – why would the work of an extremely successful and well-regarded writer be so neglected?  It was therefore with curiosity mixed with apprehension that I arrived at the Canal Cafe on Thursday night.

I had never been to this theatre before, but from previous knowledge I had been expecting an arrangement of tables and chair, café- style.  However, the company had decided to perform in traverse, which was an excellent choice, as it really made the best of the space available.  Incorporating an actual window into the set, rather than covering it up was also a good idea.

I was first drawn to Williams’ work after seeing a film version of The Glass Menagerie, featuring Karen Allen as Laura, and this has remained my favourite of his plays.  The Fat Man’s Wife appears to have many similarities with the story of Shakespeare’s sister, in that they are both slightly gentler than much of the writer’s other work, while still containing the sense of claustrophobia and restriction that characterises the majority of his plays.

All three actors did a wonderful job.  Damien Hughes, as Dennis Merriwether, conveyed the exuberance and indestructibility of youth and the frustration when he realises that eagerness and enthusiasm isn’t going to be enough, in a lively, engaging way.  Emma Taylor (Vera) had our sympathy as the middle-aged woman trapped in a loveless marriage, who nevertheless is too scared, or too realistic, to escape.  We could feel her pain, and, even more, her weariness.  Although his part was small, Richard Stephenson Winter, still managed to portray Joe as a figure to be pitied, a victim of his own appetites, and made Vera’s decision to stay with him believable.  The play was ably directed by Russell Lucas, with assistance from Anne Harris.

Without knowing the background of this play, however, it comes across as the first act of a two act play, with the second act missing.  The ending is abrupt, and it feels as if the characters could have done with a lot more development.  But once you take into account the fact that it was one of Tennessee William’s earlier pieces of writing, and look at it as a sort of rehearsal for his later works, it becomes a fascinating piece of theatre, well worth the price of admission.

The Fat Man’s wife is running Thursday – Sunday at the Canal Cafe Theatre, Little Venice until 2 March, Sundays at 7pm, all other shows at 7.30pm.  For tickets and more information, please visit www.canalcafetheatre.com.  Picture by Simon Annand.

Mary Tynan

From Stage to Page

It's a Desperate Life - cover imageIt’s a Desperate Life by Peter Hammond

I was tempted to call this piece “It’s a Desperate Book,” just for fun.  But it would have been misleading, because it’s not a desperate book, unless you mean desperately good, desperately funny, or desperately hard to put down.

Frankie Flynn, the book’s main character, first appeared in a play called Quare Times.  In its first full production, I was delighted to be cast in the role of Susan, and I happily described the play to anyone who asked as “a Dublin version of Alf Garnett crossed with a lesbian version of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, with me playing Sidney Poitier.”  I did not know at the time that Quare Times would be just the first of a series, and that Frankie would go on to have many more adventures.

Peter Hammond, who was at that time the director of the London Irish Centre in Camden, went on to write several more plays in the series, and after the first production, the role of Frankie was always played by Owen Nolan, to whom (along with the author’s father) this book is dedicated.  Owen contributed a lot to the development of the character, and will always be the definitive Frankie Flynn.

What Peter has done with this book is to take the characters and events from these plays, expand them, link them together, and transform them into a well-written comic novel.  The first-person narrative gives an entirely different feel to the main character, and we see the other people in the world of the fictional Dublin district, the Daymo, through his eyes.  All the characters are well delineated, and very funny, in their own right, and the book is full of hilarious lines, such as “Ya’d lick it (beer) off a scabby leg” – Peggy (his wife) talking to Frankie.

The novel has a softer, more relaxed feel than the plays: tending to be slightly less uproarious and more gently amusing.  That said, it also has more of a roller-coaster feel, as the main character plunges from one situation to another.  Hearing the stories through Frankie’s words, and using the through story of a proposed move to the suburbs brings the disparate stories into a coherent whole.  Strangely, I find myself reminded of Keith Waterhouse’s equally charismatic character, Billy Liar.

This is an excellent first novel, which I predict will be but the first of many by this talented writer.  It’d be a desperate shame not to read it.

You can buy It’s a Desperate Life online at http://peterhammondauthor.com, and you can read Frankie Flynn’s blog at http://www.frankieflynn.blogspot.co.uk.

Mary Tynan

 

The Springheel Saga

shj_cryptofevil_large_sml_jackWireless Theatre Company have contacted me with the exciting information that Series Two of the popular Springheel Saga, entitled The Legend of Springheel’d Jack, will be released online on 6 December 2013.  In the meantime, here is a review of Series One to whet your appetites.

The Strange Case of Springheel’d Jack

Wireless Theatre Company’s take on the Spring-Heeled Jack story is an atmospheric, exhilarating, beguiling piece of radio drama.  The writers have taken the known facts of the case and expertly weaved them with a story of devil worship that appears to pay homage to “The Daemons” (the Jon Pertwee Doctor Who story from the 1970s).   Doctor Who influences are everywhere, from the opening music (which also strangely reminds me of “Dallas”), to Julian Glover’s participation as Lord Wayland, to the fact that the lead character is called Jonah Smith.  The eagle-eared among you will spot other parallels as you listen, but I wouldn’t want to give everything away!

Gareth Parker and Robert Valentine’s storytelling is excellent.  The dialogue holds your interest and manages to elucidate the plot expertly, whilst simultaneously depicting and delineating the various characters in a sympathetic manner.  The writing is of a very high standard throughout, with some marvellous lines and phrases which stick in the memory – my favourite being “reform bills that pass like ghosts through Parliament’s bladder!”

The writing is greatly assisted by the sound in all three episodes.  Both Francesco Quadraroupolo’s music and Andrew Swann’s sound effects help to build the atmosphere to the point where you can almost see what is going on.  I could easily imagine myself in Victorian London, and the devil worshipping ceremonies were particularly effective.  Of course, this is also largely due to the quality of the acting; the way that everything is edited together (Andrew Swann again) and the overall production values of the serial.

With a cast of 23, it is impossible for me to mention everyone, suffice it to say that all should be extremely proud of their performances.  Christopher Finney and Matthew Jure gave strong, believable, sympathetic performances as Constables Jonah Smith and Toby Hooks respectively, as did Jessica Dennis in the lead female role of Charlotte Fitzrandolph.  All of the female characters were played very well – I particularly like landlady Mrs Bairstow, played in an amusing and entertaining manner by Lizzie Goodall.  Julian Glover was a marvellously nefarious villain, and Jack Bowman did a wonderful job of portraying the evil and menacing Mr Chough.

The Strange Case of Springheel’d Jack is in three episodes: The Ghost of Clapham Common; The Crypt of Evil and The Face of the Fiend.  Each of these can be downloaded free from www.wirelesstheatrecompany.co.uk.  Further episodes are promised, which I, for one, shall certainly be on the lookout for!

Mary Tynan

First published on Blogtor Who.

Don’t Let it Pass you By

Arion Productions Ltd presents Passing By by Martin Sherman at the Tristan Bates Theatre

Passing By begins, deceptively, with a one-night stand.  A one-night stand that turns into eight weeks and becomes the substance of the play.  Thrown together by circumstances, the two main characters have intensive intimacy forced upon them, which leads to both comic moments and personal revelations.  It is almost like a bubble of unreality, in which normal life is suspended for a period of time.  Naturally, all such bubbles eventually burst.

Toby and Simon meet at the cinema, and then return to Toby’s apartment.  Simon has just arrived in New York from Miami Beach.  The following morning we hear that Toby is about to leave for Paris, so their relationship seems doomed to be a brief one.  Nevertheless, Simon turns up at Toby’s place of work (a wine shop) several days later, and a subsequent discovery of mutual illness, coupled with the fact that Simon has nowhere else to stay, causes them to nurse each other back to health over the next 8 weeks.

This is a well-written, carefully-structured, balanced play.  It has overtones of the type of New York humour found in Woody Allen or Neil Simon, and the contrast between James Cartwright’s portrayal of Olympic diver Simon, and Rik Makarem’s New York Jew Toby adds to the richness of the mix.  Simon is laid-back, confident, physically fit and has never had a day’s illness in his life (until now), whereas Toby is nervous, neurotic and seemingly hypochondriac at the start of the play.

Both actors filled their roles extremely well.  I couldn’t fault the accents, and James Cartwright’s initially relaxed Simon was a good foil to Rik Makarem’s anxious Toby.  However, it was as the play progressed and the roles reversed that the actors came into their own, and the interplay between them was excellent.  The juxtaposition of characters was what made the play, and, to me, was reminiscent of many wonderful similar stories: The Odd Couple; Prick Up Your Ears and even Ernie and Bert!

The resemblance to both the Joe Orton story and the Sesame Street roommates was enhanced by the set (presumably designed by Philip Lindley).  The majority of the play is set in Toby’s bedroom/kitchenette, which is a very good simulation of a 1970s room, with nylon bedspreads, padded headboards and an old-style black dial telephone.  The only false note was a television remote control of a type not in common use until the early 90s – a bit of an anachronism for 1972.  The three other short scenes – in the wine shop; at the cinema; on a bench – were very cleverly fitted into the main set.

The interesting thing about watching a play which was actually written in the early 70s, rather than one written today looking back at the period, is that there is no benefit of hindsight.  There is no dramatic irony, apart from that which the audience themselves experience, and the writer had no knowledge of the vast changes which were to take place in the lives of gay men in New York and elsewhere over the next couple of decades.  This gives a purity to the piece, almost as if we were looking through a window in time and space, that you just don’t get with retrospective writing.  For this, and for many other reasons, I would recommend you catch this play – as it is passing by.

Passing by is at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden until 30th November, nightly at 7.30, tickets £14 (£12 concessions).  For booking or more information visit www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk or telephone 020 7240 6283.  Photos by Scott Rylander.

Mary Tynan

Passing By