Mark Gatiss, star of Sherlock and Doctor who among many other things, stars in The Boys In The Band for a strictly limited 15 performance run at the Vaudeville Theatre.
It’s only fair to address this as not simply a piece of theatre, but, perhaps more significantly, a piece of history. Important, rather than groundbreaking art. An explicit reminder, rather than an education. It is a portrait of what it was to be homosexual, black, in denial, and/or depressed in 60s New York City, and more than likely, most of the rest of the world.
My overriding feeling throughout, was that the audience’s overall amused reaction to puns and jibes which were about nothing more than homosexuality, sex, or infidelity in themselves is somewhat surprising in the 21st century. It is, however, presumably fitting with 1968 New York. It is the unapologetic homophobia and racial slurs which give the production real potency in its ability to depict the lack of acceptance of these now normalities, in the 60s, and the secrecy which ensued.
As far as individual performances go, Daniel Boys’ stands out in act one, and Gatiss is decidedly slimy throughout, but the real masterclasses in performance come towards the end of the second act, following the coming together of Emory (James Holmes) and Alan (John Hopkins). Michael (Ian Hallard) then descends rapidly, somewhat predictably, and excellently into self loathing in the final scenes. While Hallard, Hopkins and Gatiss have important and very well executed roles, it is Holmes who really keeps the show together and keeps the laughs coming.
It’s a good show, but whichever powers that be made this run little more than two weeks, have made an excellent decision. Individual performances are close to faultless and there were some moments of genuine humour, but this isn’t a piece which has an extensive life on a west end stage.
Photo Credit: Daren Bell