Tag Archives: Douglas Booth

Strangers’ Things

A GUIDE FOR THE HOMESICK

Trafalgar Studios, London, Thursday 1st November, 2018

 

Ken Urban’s two-hander is set in an Amsterdam hotel a couple of years pre-Trump (happy days!) and tells the story of Teddy (a very strong Clifford Samuel) who invites a young man he has met in the bar up to his room so they can continue drinking after closing time.  It appears that Teddy has misread signals somewhere along the line and the nerdish, slightly effeminate Jeremy (the excellent Douglas Booth) isn’t gay after all… Or is he?  Jeremy can hardly bring himself to say the word.

As the two men talk and drink, their stories emerge.  It’s true, sometimes, that it’s easier to tell things to a stranger than to one’s closest acquaintances.  Teddy is in Amsterdam with a friend, prior to the friend’s wedding back home in New York, but there is some mystery about the friend’s absence… Jeremy is newly returned from relief work in Kampala – and there is some mystery about his departure from the clinic…

The men winkle, sometimes bully, the truth from each other, piece by piece.  After a lengthy establishing scene, Urban flicks the action between the hotel room now, the hospital in Uganda, and the hotel room when Teddy’s friend was present, with Samuel playing gay Ugandan Nicholas who befriends Jeremy, and Booth becoming Teddy’s unstable chum – who is obsessed with a story of a lonely whale whose song is of a frequency no other whales can hear… The story is a symbol for these two strangers, obviously, and is repeated perhaps one too many times.  We get it.

The quick changes between locations are achieved via Nic Farman’s lighting; the application of a colour wash transports us to sultry Africa at the touch of a button.  Also, Samuel’s African accent both convinces and helps us distinguish the whos, wheres, and whens.

The writing is sharp and funny; the playing of both actors is intense yet nuanced.  Director Jonathan O’Boyle keeps them moving around the intimate space, like caged animals, almost to the extent that I wish they’d keep still and just talk for pity’s sake.

The action covers, via Nicholas, the sickening rise of homophobic murders in Uganda, and how, even now, someone from a privileged background in the States can find it impossible to come out and be at peace with his sexuality.  Clifford’s Teddy is the more forceful presence, while Booth’s Jeremy is more subtly conflicted.  Sparks fly when tempers – and other things – are roused, and issues are thrashed out on a personal level.  With the way the world is going perhaps all we can do is cling to each other.

A thoroughly gripping, amusing yet provocative eighty minutes I strongly advise you to experience.

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Setting things straight: Douglas Booth and Clifford Samuel (Photo: Helen Maybanks)


Figures of Speech

SPEECH & DEBATE

Trafalgar Studios, London, Saturday 11th March, 2017

 

Stephen Karam’s snappy script is brought to life in this new production by a trio of energised performers.  Set in an American high school, it covers the experiences of three loners who come together to form a debate club when it emerges that they each have a reason to bring about the downfall of the drama teacher…

Solomon is a neurotic mass, an uptight reporter for the school newspaper.  He wants to write an expose to bring the hypocrisy of the mayor (and the drama teacher) into the spotlight.  Dinata is a lonely girl, a wannabe actor who uses theatrics to get by, podcasting and blogging away, always with her eye out for the chance to perform.  Howie is the new kid at school – it is his online chat with the drama teacher that opens the show and gets the ball rolling.

Douglas Booth is in excellent form as Howie, portraying the boy’s fragility rather than his campness.  His barbed lines are exquisitely timed, and there is an appealing vulnerability to his presence.  Patsy Ferran has never been better as Dinata, the driving force behind the debate club, the funniest of the three.  Wise-cracking and sardonic, she is not as hep and cool as she pretends.  Her songs are sweetly funny – and the musical numbers are definite highlights, allowing Ferran to shine.  Booth also proves himself as a physical comedian, while Tony Revolori’s understated moves have their own hilariousness.  Revolori is superb as the tightly wound, crusading Solomon, who has to come to terms with his own contradictions.

The trio is strongly supported by Charlotte Lucas who appears in grown-up roles as a teacher and a reporter, but for the most part it is the dynamics between the three loners that holds our attention.  Director Tom Attenborough keeps the action sharp and the dialogue going off like firecrackers.  Economic use of projections show us the online chats that, along with references to Mike Pence, make the script bang up-to-date.  The play is not finally about the issues up for debate; it’s the time-honoured theme of teenage awkwardness, of being uncomfortable in one’s own skin.  And it’s an absolute delight.  A well-observed, snappily presented comedy that reminds us how modern technology can serve to keep us isolated or get us into trouble.

P.S.  If Douglas Booth feels like sending me pics, I would not mind one bit.

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Was Honest Abe gay? One of the topics up for debate! Douglas Booth as Howie (Photo: Simon Annand)