Oscar nominated Trevor Griffith’s debut is a brief single act play written in 1969 in response to the 1967 Sexual Offences Act – legislation deemed to facilitate the prosecution of gay men. Despite gathering dust for 30 years before publication the premise remains fresh and timely in this age of spin. Themes of privacy, respect and exploitation ring true and this black comedy will entertain while the subject matter resonates with contemporary audiences.
The set, a men’s toilet, is a perfect match for this petite theatre. The tiny venue was tight and confined with only three L-shaped rows where those to the front had their feet literally on the set. Dank urinals, a cracked pane of security glass in the door and a grimy exposed bulb which rattled as trains pass overhead. The audience, cramped and confined, were in as hard and uncomfortable a situation as the scenario that played out before us.
The play centres on Alfred Rimbaud Thin (Richard Sandells) a mild mannered office worker accosted and interrogated by two feral detectives known simply as One (Ryan Gage) and Two (Alan Frances). The investigation, purportedly in regards to a murder, soon reveals its aim to delve and expose Thin’s deepest, most private secrets: an incestuous affair, shady trips abroad and homosexuality.
The play is further offset by superb casting that augments the intensity and depth of the script. Gage and Frances form an excellent double-act as the detectives; using comedic timing they personify their characters rather than creating caricatures. Gage is fantastically edgy alternating between a menacing Cheshire cat grin and a grimace that, as an aside, makes him a shoe-in for a Blair biopic. Frances plays the rather rambling yet unpredictable muscle with disarming deftness. Richard Sandells delivers a precise performance astutely balancing tension, anger, fear and caution to keep Thin real and the audience riveted.
The CongoRed production is a real sensation and remarkable achievement. The performances and questions raised about public and private personas linger well after Thin’s hour is up.
The Wages of Thin – 3.5*
The Old Red Lion Theatre
418 St. John Street
London, UK, EC1V 4NJ
0207 837 7816