Tenderness shines by means of a loud play

Ste (Liam Prichard) and Jamie (Nick Dyball). Photograph: Janelle McMenamin and Michael Moore.

Theatre / “Stunning Factor” by Jonathan Harvey, directed by Jarrad West.  ACT Hub, Kingston, till October 15. Reviewed by HELEN MUSA.

IN selecting to stage, Jonathan Harvey’s “Stunning Factor” as an alternative choice to Tommy Murphy’s play “Holding The Man”, which was postponed for covid-related causes, director Jarrad West has stayed on observe by choosing a play that’s, fairly merely, about love.

For amidst the hurly-burly of life in quick post-Thatcher period, south-west London, it’s the affecting relationship between two teenage boys that shines brightly on this work.

There are faint glimmers of different kinds of affection, too – the powerful love of barmaid mom Sandra (Amy Kowalczuk) for her truant 15-year-old son Jamie, (Nick Dyball) as an example, and a type of brutal affection from the rebellious lady subsequent door Leah (Liv Boddington) however by and enormous, it’s a pitiless surroundings.

Tony offers Sandra a leg therapeutic massage. Photograph: Janelle McMenamin and Michael Moore.

In 2022 this can be a interval play and West’s enormous inventive group has rallied round to conjure up a London housing property the place individuals are doing it powerful and a sort phrase isn’t to be discovered. Plastic backyard chairs and much-loved pot crops are the most effective of what’s doable on this milieu and the paper-thin partitions although which all the pieces may be heard are the worst.

West has chosen a traverse staging configuration (the ACT Hub seating formation may be modified for every manufacturing) during which the viewers members face one another lengthwise.

It’s a difficult mode, however it does permit the invective to have full pressure because the characters hurl insults at one another in a script, laced with coarse, acerbic dialogue and appreciable wit that resonates with audiences.

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It additionally permits for an intimate scene between the 2 boys, Ste (Liam Prichard) and Jamie when throughout a sleepover when is compelled to flee his abusive household, however it additionally signifies that viewers focus is typically dissipated over such a big area.

Harvey’s script is notable for its ferocious dialogue, delivered by the solid a notch too excessive, I believed.

Tony helps Leah when she imagines herself changing into Mama Cass. Photograph: Janelle McMenamin and Michael Moore.

However additionally it is notable for its strongly contrasting, well-drawn characters – the fickle survivor mum – additionally performed a notch too excessive by Kowalczuk, her quirky current boyfriend Tony (Colin Giles), who likes to point out us as a lot of his physique as he can and Leah, hooked on the music of Mama Cass, who, in a single pitch-perfect scene, imagines herself changing into the well-known Mamas & the Papas lead singer who apparently choked to dying on a ham sandwich.

Filled with slapping, banging and shouting, “Stunning Factor” usually feels exhausting till you realise how cleverly Harvey has positioned the scenes to permit for a very tender relationship to emerge between the affection-starved teenage boys, with two finely-calibrated performances from Dyball and Prichard. West’s path permits this to emerge subtly.

Outstanding for its time, Harvey’s play is unpreachy. There’s solely a fleeting reference to HIV because the boys are studying a homosexual journal and whereas just a few opinions are expressed concerning the infamous homosexual bar, the Gloucester, the topic of same-sex love in is dealt with by Harvey in a simple approach – “it’s solely pure,” as Tony says.

After all of the aggressiveness of their play’s first half, each Harvey as playwright and West as director conclude on a candy, tender be aware with an extended, gradual fade as two {couples} dance on stage to a Mama Cass track.

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Strap in for some language, however you’ll be able to anticipate this to be an entertaining, emotionally uplifting night within the theatre.



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Ian Meikle, editor