REVIEW: Two Come Home, Lakeside Theatre Essex ✭✭✭

Paul T Davies reviews Two Come Home, a new play by Joe Eason at the Lakeside Theatre, University of Essex.

Two Come HomeTwo Come Home.
Lakeside Theatre, University of Essex.
1 March 2024
3 Stars

When a new work is presented for the first time, it’s often not quite “there” yet, and a chance for the creative team and company to assess areas that need more development and those that work. It’s certainly the case with Joe Eason’s new play, in which there is much to admire. Set in a small Appalachian ex-mining town, Evan tries to rebuild his post-prison life, dealing with his alcoholic mother, until the return of his teenage lover Jimmy and then Evan’s violent father threatens his very existence. Eason has been open about Tracey Letts’ work as an influence, and it’s difficult not to be unaware of that. With a live band on stage, it’s also hard not to make comparisons with the recent theatrical version of Brokeback Mountain, the script offers little that’s new. But the story arc is clear, and very powerful in places, and some excellent acting brings the piece to life.

Two Come HomeEason himself plays Evan, (and also composed the music and designed the show), and is superb at capturing the caged quality of the character, and his first meeting with Jimmy, (excellent Ben Maytham), is when the play really gets going, the tension and sexual attraction between them is brilliantly realised. They are both haunted by their love rather than exhilarated by it. His alcoholic mother, Amy, and violent father, Caleb, are a little stereotypical, we have seen these portrayals many times before. But outstanding performances from Nicola Goodchild and James Burton bring them to vivid life, making the threat to any happiness their son might scrap for himself very clear. For me, the most underdeveloped role is Police Officer Greg Wilson, played by director Noah Alfred Two Come HomePantano, and his yearning to have what Evan and Jimmy have feels like a queer layering too far. He has lines such as “Everyone in this town is broken”, and his urgent advice for Evan to leave town feels like the grizzled, older cop you see in American diners.

At first, with the band supplying all the sound effects and incidental music, I felt they were underused. Then Eason lets rip a gorgeous song just before the interval, and with Jenna Saiz-Abo Henrikson’s beautiful vocals, all parts of the play connect tremendously, this element is strong and moving. I was also impressed that the play doesn’t pan out the way you would predict. It’s a powerful gay love story and inhabits a very convincing world, and for young LGBTQ+ people, it will touch many chords.  With some streamlining and rewriting, which I’m sure the company are aware of, the piece will fly on the festival circuit.

For more information visit Two Come Home Play

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