The Glass Supper at Hampstead Theatre
Marcus and Colin have left London’s raucous gay scene for a sleepy cottage in the country, yet whether the pair’s escape to rural tranquillity is getting away or running away remains one of writer Martyn Hasford’s lingering questions. Their relationship simmers with discontent and Marcus harbours growing suspicions about his husband’s behaviour. Trouble escalates to greater heights with the unexpected appearance of Steven and his teenage lover Jamie, who this time last year shared a foursome with the newly married couple. With bawdy Wendy in tow and copious lashings of alcohol, tensions rise and a quiet evening descends into total chaos.
Secrets gradually escape from the stilted atmosphere. Steven, whose aggressive temperament simmers beneath his smooth exterior, reveals an ominous struggle for power over his partner, the impish, venomous Jamie. Wendy laments over her and Steven’s broken marriage, unearthing a past of hurt and insecurity, while Colin exposes his substance abuse and colourful sexual exploits despite Marcus’s attempts to tame him.
The actors cope well with Hasford’s fast paced yet vacuous script, which often seems undecided as to whether it is simply a no-frills soap opera or a symbolic black comedy. Despite constant personal revelations, any sort of character development is lacking and when tempers flair into a full-blown shrieking match, we are left questioning whether we are really concerned about these characters enough to care that they are verbally and physically abusing each other.
Alex Lawther plays the sly, cattish Jamie well, gaining some deserved laughs, and Michelle Collins captures the hopeless and desperate Wendy – the only character who actually transcends their two-dimensional character mould. Yet Michael Begley’s bumbling, Kenneth Williams-esque Marcus, and Owen Sharpe’s sex-crazed, drug addled Colin do seem to belittle homosexuality as a lifestyle for the vain and vacuous, meanwhile the first act’s obvious religious symbolism seems to evaporate into nothingness by the second half.
Performed at a hyperbolic fever pitch, Hesford’s drama attempts to say something about modern gay relationships but rather falls into stereotype and hollowness, which ultimately makes for an unpleasant watch.
The Glass Supper is at the Hampstead Theatre until 26th July 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.