Review: The Glass Supper
We review Michelle Collins' new play
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Marcus and Colin have left London and ‘the scene’ behind. Moving to a cottage in the middle of nowhere has gifted them with peace and quiet – Marcus can focus on his writing and Colin has used the new start to draw a line under his substance abuse. One evening their new-found silence is shattered by the surprise arrival of a couple that they met on a cruise the previous year – mature man Steven and his teenage boyfriend Jamie - accompanied by their colourful friend Wendy.
The evening of hastily prepared party-food and wine-without-end that follows is a spellbinding study of the disconnect between our interior and exterior selves. Initially sketched with broad comic strokes, all five characters ultimately surrender glimpses of a whole universe of internal existence – the churning, frothing realm of self that’s constantly threatening an explosive escape into the material world. The roles that these conflicting versions of ourselves play in our pairings-off with others form the central meditation of the piece – how well do we really know ourselves and each other, and exactly who is gaining what from romantic interactions?
Michelle Collins sparkles as Wendy – the only woman at the party - whose relationships with the gay men in her life are spectacularly self-destructive. Collins expertly captures a certain type of good-time girl who has matured only in appearance, hilarious and heart breaking in equal measures. Michael Begley and Owen Sharpe are cunningly cast and completely believable as slightly dysfunctional, but cosily charming couple Marcus and Colin. Begley perfectly pitches Marcus’ comic exasperation, and subtly shifts from comedy to tragedy as the evening’s antics take darker turns. As Colin, Sharpe gives us a layered portrait of a strong, sexy, confident man progressively losing himself in self-medication. An intoxicating performance.
The man/boy relationship between Steven and Jamie represents something that is often encountered in the gay world but rarely spoken about beyond the confines of our little bubble, other than in very negative accusations of universal paedophilia. Indeed, the actor playing Jamie is possessed of such youthful looks that this particular bond initially appears to verge on pederasty, but the text makes it clear that theirs is a consenting partnership between two legal adults. The pair are presented with commendable honesty, and whilst there is clearly an unequal balance of power between the lovers, it’s never quite clear who is manipulating whom the most.
Michael Feast, as Steven, is as terrifying as he is entertaining – barely concealed animalistic aspects straining at his every seam throughout. Satisfyingly savage. Alex Lawther gives a standout performance as Jamie - an extraordinarily detailed depiction of a specific type of twink who knows exactly how to use his boyish looks to his own advantage – precisely personifying one of the few on whom youth is not fully wasted. Breathtakingly brilliant and screamingly funny.
A highly recommended evening of comic contrasts and passionate predicament. Bring your teen-boy lover – he’ll enjoy it too.
GT gives it: 5/5
The Glass Supper runs at The Hampstead Theatre until July 26th. Full details at the Hampstead Theatre website.
Words: Richard Unwin
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