The Act at Ovalhouse
Hilarious and highly topical, new play The Act premiered at The Ovalhouse this week. Created by Thomas Hescott and Matthew Baldwin, and performed entirely by the latter, this show is a powerful exploration of the 1967 decriminalisation of homosexuality in England.
As the audience walk into the intimate Ovalhouse they are greeted with a fantastically minimalistic set. Baldwin strides onstage with confidence, positively oozing charm; his very first line draws laughter from the audience and they immediately root for him. The actor changes character with ease, convincing in even the most outrageous caricatures. Remarkably, he looks directly at his audience, even when his characters are at their most stripped-back and vulnerable. His energy and focus build to a fantastic climax, with no fear apparent in the bold and captivating performance.
Baldwin and Hescott have done something very clever with this play, addressing a very current social issue by looking to the past for guidance. With equal marriage rights being debated all around the world, The Act presents us with both a personal and political look at the issue. Songs, personal anecdotes and parliamentary speeches all help to build the poignant story, the latter making very familiar arguments still offered today. The dry, logical oration is juxtaposed with the suffering of the gay characters, sharply reminding us that the loneliness, fear and persecution that came from being gay when it was illegal endure today.
This is not to say, however, that the performance is all doom and gloom – far from it. The show is full of biting wit and is fantastically vulgar; the audience hardly stop laughing throughout.
The brilliance of The Act is that, even though it is a political satire, at its core it is far more personal. It is a funny, realistic and moving exploration of what it is like to live in fear of what you are and who you love. It is not only an extremely enjoyable play, but also a highly important one.
The Act is on at Ovalhouse Theatre until 26th October 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.