Review: The Past Is A Tattooed Sailor, Old Red Lion

“I don’t ‘do’, I exist”

Catching up on openings I missed whilst away, The Past Is A Tattooed Sailor had the type of title I couldn’t ignore so I booked myself in at the Old Red Lion. Sadly though, Simon Blow’s new play failed to lived up to the promise of its moniker. Its based on Blow’s relationship with his great uncle Stephen Tennant – one of the Bright Young People – and other aspects of his own life, but rarely elevates those experiences into engaging, dramatic theatre – there’s the distinct sense that a more seasoned writer might have been able to deliver on the potential here.

For there is potential. The delving into the eccentric end of the world of the English upper classes is intriguingly set up as the young, pretty and poor Joshua decides to visit his great uncle Napier to secure his position in his will. He takes with him his labourer boyfriend Damien, immediately endearing him to the older gent who also was a fan of a bit of rough, and in the dusty realms of this country house, ghosts of the past come to life to (presumably) illuminate the truth of the future.

But Blow fudges this badly with an entirely inconsistent approach to the actual ghosts who appear – people sometimes see them, sometimes they don’t, but rarely do you care – Napier’s eccentricity is sorely lacking an accompanying wit and Joshua is ultimately just quite dull. Jeffrey Mayhew’s direction doesn’t infuse the play with anywhere near enough life to overcome the shortcomings of the writing, making this a piece of the past that is best left well alone.

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Pamela Raith Photography
Booking until 28th August 

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