Peter Gill’s Something In The Air at the Jermyn Street Theatre does exactly what you expect from a Peter Gill play
“You took relationships as if they were the next train”
In some ways, I really am my own worst enemy. I have often found that I’ve wanted to like Peter Gill plays much more than I actually do – his tendency towards the elegiac and abstruse needing strong direction to avoid being ponderous and passionless. But throw in a good cast and in this case, the opportunity to see Ian Gelder in as intimate a space as the Jermyn Street Theatre, and I overrode my better instincts.
That’s not to say that Something In The Air is a bad play at all, but rather that it conformed to the lower side of my expectations. Christopher Godwin and Ian Gelder play Alex and Colin, a pair of elderly men who have found a connection in the care home where they reside. And from their comfy chairs, holding hands, they regale us with stories, a potted queer history that – lest we forget – doesn’t have to stretch too far back to a time when homosexuality was illegal.
But their stories aren’t straightforward and nor are their presentation. Reflecting the ephemeral nature of memories, the complexities of queer histories and the challenges of personal LGBT+ experiences both past and present is a mighty undertaking and one which is sensitively considered. It doesn’t however always make for the most edifying theatrical experience, as is the case here under Gill’s co-direction with Alice Hamilton.
Both past and present have an additional pair of characters. Clare (Claire Skinner) and Andrew (Andrew Woodall) are the niece and son who would deny the silver foxes their love, whilst possibly getting it on themselves. And Gareth (Sam Thorpe-Spinks) and Nicholas (James Schofield) appear as former connections from the past, the precise details of which uncoil through the tangled web of words. There’s much potential but little emotional heft to any of this supporting work.
The opaqueness of the narrative, even with such a short running time, means that purchasing the playscript programme feels almost a necessity. And to be searching for clarity by reading on the journey home doesn’t quite feel the point. The wilful opaqueness adds little and the awkward staging stumbles around Alex and Colin in their chairs rather than flowing, further hampering the way in which the play reaches us.