Review: Gay Generations, White Bear Theatre

Gay Generations showcases a double bill of Michael McManus’ A Certain Term and Charlie Ross MacKenzie’s I F****n Love You at the White Bear Theatre

“Fuck the hedgehog”

Originally scheduled to be staged in March 2020,  Gay Generations – a double bill of new gay writing – has finally made it to the White Bear Theatre. Loosely connected through their inclusion of older gay characters, both one-act plays neatly widen dramatic representation for a sector of the LGBT+ community that aren’t necessarily that well reflected in societal narratives, particularly from within the community itself.

First up is A Certain Term by Michael McManus, directed by Bryan Hodgson, and full disclosure, this one made me cry. Haunted by the past, Dickon Farmar’s Graham hosts an annual dinner party with his closest friends, a testament to those who survived the HIV/AIDS epidemic and a tribute to those that didn’t. But this year, the early arrival of fresh-faced work colleague Joe (Daniel Cornish) provokes a startlingly fresh perspective on the past.

McManus details the generational gap between the pair beautifully, the space between the lived experience of Graham versus the historical understanding of Joe just as big as the former’s struggles to fully comprehend the contemporary freedoms and fluidities of the latter. Farmar is truly excellent as the heart-wrenchingly buttoned-up Graham and the late arrival of otherworldly guest Robert (Edward O’Connor) only adds to the elegiac sadness of the revelations to come.

By contrast, Charlie Ross MacKenzie’s I F****n Love You, directed by Oliver McFadden, takes a more light-hearted, though ultimately no less profound approach to its subject. Due to some DIY, Simon and Adrian are spending the night on the sofabed but their sleepless night is less to do with the mattress than with the meandering thought processes which lead to some soul-searching conversations.

Adrian’s celebrity as a TV presenter turned local radio host is dipping whereas Simon’s is on the rise to the extent that he’s just had an offer from Strictly but despite these differences – Adrian is also a fair bit older than Simon – their relationship is pleasingly solid. That’s not to say that they don’t have their insecurities as they circle big topics like family, class, death and saying ‘I love you’. 

MacKenzie’s background in stand-up is apparent from the outset, with a script sprinkled with warm and witty one-liners. And as we range from Buck’s Fizz to bladder control, there’s real affection in the dynamics played out here by MacKenzie as Adrian and Brandon Gale as Simon. Tenderly touching, it acts as an uplifting counterpoint to A Certain Term, making this a most effective double bill. 

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Gay Generations is booking at the White Bear Theatre until 28th August

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