Paul T Davies reviews Tommy Murphy’s superb coming of age play Strangers In Between at Trafalgar Studios 2 and finds it to be unmissable.
Strangers in Between
Trafalgar Studios 2
12 January 2018
Shane is young, desperately innocent and naive and has arrived in Sydney from deep in the outback. Nervous, always alert to muggings, drug users, prostitution and violence in his neighbourhood, he carries a legacy of violence from his family life that follows him and haunts him. Adorable, funny and innocent, he is also prone to outbursts of verbal abuse and a deeply rooted homophobia. This often reveals itself at moments of great tenderness with other men, with Will, his potential boyfriend, who unfortunately passes to Shane a case of genital warts, and an older gay man, Peter, who befriends the young Shane. They try to understand his behaviour, reject him to project themselves, and when Shane’s brother, Ben, arrives, we begin to understand the past that Shane is running away from.
The play is beautifully acted by the cast of three. Roly Botha is outstanding as Shane, instantly winning us over with his nervous energy and constant chatting. His questions to the other men are hilarious, ranging from the origin of coat hangers one moment to anal sex the next. His violence explodes with a disarming honesty, and when the past is revealed, he handles it with devastating and convincing honesty. He is matched by Stephen Connery-Brown’s excellent performance as Peter, the older Queen, a wise sage, delivering pithy one liners with aplomb, yet nobody’s fool and kind and caring. It is so refreshing to see a relationship between an older and younger gay man played so sensitively about friendship, not exclusively sexual, and their relationship is beautifully convincing. Dan Hunter completes the cast as Will, Shane’s potential boyfriend, and this is another excellent performance, even more so when Hunter doubles up as Ben, Shane’s macho brother, edgy and violent, yet caring, and the contrast between the two roles is superb acting of the highest order.
I was very impressed by the balance of change in the reveal in the second half, where the mood and atmosphere is handled brilliantly in Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s pitch perfect production, on a functional and excellent design by Becky-Dee Trevenen. What shines through in this play is tenderness, and this coming of age tale is steadfast in its honesty about life’s complications and how we struggle to escape the past, and our families. It is also completely hilarious! Bravo to the King’s Head Theatre for another excellent production.
See more production photos from Strangers In Between