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Sandel

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.

http://www.thepublicreviews.com/sandel-above-the-stag-theatre-london/

Slanted and oblique bookcases and classical spires effectively backdrop and set the scene for this love story between a 19 year old undergraduate, David Rogers and Anthony Sandel, a 14 year old choir boy in 1960’s Oxford. Anthony the seducer meets David and their relationship grows with walks in the country and shopping trips to Cheltenham. While David’s devout Catholic friend Bruce from school keeps a close watch on the relationship, offering advice, helpful or otherwise.

This play is an adaptation of the novel of the same title by Angus Stewart which has a cult following. It is a light hearted love story and has its amusing moments. The mood is quaint: afternoons of tea and punting in the Thames, as well as discussions on Greek philosophy and literature. Music is a big subject matter and the play is accompanied by soothing and regal choral and classical pieces. Though nothing too inventive or exciting overall.

It was well received when it was first performed as a shorter one hour twenty minute play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013. Here, it has been extended to two hours and twenty minutes and there is a distinct feeling that it is an hour too long. The pace is pedestrian from the beginning and the relationship takes too long to develop, although it fits with the setting of the play. There are only so many hesitant, longing looks, touchy feely horseplay and topless photographic sessions that are required to explain the relationship. And the personalities of David and Anthony are not complex enough to justify the long build up. Act two does threaten to propel some dramatic impetus into the proceedings but it soon fades back to its default of gentle plodding. Perhaps it is the challenge of the dual role of writer and director by Glenn Chandler and the lack of an authoritative second opinion to cut out some scenes. An hour and twenty minutes sounds just right.

Ashley Cousins plays the precocious seducer Anthony with a knowing innocence. The suggestions of vanity in the first act burst through in the second with an added assertiveness while still craving and demanding David’s affection. Joseph Lindoe’s David is earnest with a youthful naivety while Calum Fleming as the religious homosexual Bruce is played with a restrained flamboyance, the embodiment of suppression.

The subject matter can potentially be challenging due to the fact that homosexuality was illegal and it involves a relationship with a 14 year old. But this is nicely sidestepped and it is the loving relationship that is at the heart of the story. It is a perfectly amiable production requiring some editing. Better still, simply revive the Edinburgh production.

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