This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.
At a time when the Winter Olympics, Russia and its latest law on banning homosexual propaganda dominate the headlines, Damien Tracey has written a new play which aims to highlight and advocate for LGBT rights in Russia and beyond.
Two parallel storylines run through the play with one depicting a couple Russell and Darragh. It is set on the day before the opening ceremony of the London Olympics where Darragh is a volunteer performer. Darragh’s father is in town to attend the ceremony. When he came out to his father fifteen years ago it did not go well. Now is the opportunity to reconcile and for his dad to get to know his partner Russell who had much less of an issue coming out.
And in Sochi, 2014, Pahval is a celebrated performer in the opening ceremony. His boyfriend Yakhov is having to fight off his father who is working for the government investigating the plan by Pahval to protest during the ceremony. This is the darker of the two as it shows the government’s tactics in suppressing the LGBT community where beatings are widely used and killings are covered up as suicides.
The two strands can be seen as a contrast in attitudes towards the LGBT community from various perspectives including family, partners, passersby and the authorities. The discussions and arguments frame the various concerns and prejudices, though at times it can sound cliche. To different degrees, both scenarios are set out to show there is much to improve for the people involved. While there are witty and well written lines, the play is not subtle in making its argument. It is no doubt an important message to send and it is an amiable attempt by Tracey at doing so.
The direction from Whitney Mosery is adequate without obvious flaws but oddly lacking in dramatic tension especially in the second half. For the cast, Harry Jardine’s Yakhov is excellent with his mixture of timidity in front of his father while gradually finding strength and passion as he stands up to him. Charlie Allen is confident and flamboyant as Russell whereas Chris Aylmer as Darragh is uncertain and comes across as feeble. Although these traits suit his character well, it is not entirely convincing.
All is not as bleak as some of the elements of the play suggest. With hope as the play’s own stage nine and the final stage of grief, the acknowledgement of how far we have come is undoubted. Though there is much to achieve.