20 years on since it last graced the stage The Boys in the Band is enjoying its first major revival. Back in 1968 when it premiered to audiences this iconic play was seen as radical for portraying an insight into the lives of a group of gay men at a time when homosexuality was rarely discussed and hardly represented in the theatre.
The Boys in the Band comes direct from its West End stint at the Park Theatre to play a small number of dates at The Lowry, Salford followed by the Theatre Royal, Brighton and the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds.
Playwright Mart Crowley provides audiences with a bittersweet tale set in New York in the 1960s. All of the action takes place in the stylish apartment of Michael (Ian Hallard)- a self-confessed bad drunk and needy gay man. Michael is throwing a party for his friend Harold (Mark Gatiss) who is turning 50 and has invited a number of his gay friends over to celebrate. There’s laughter, dancing and even an impromptu entrance and entertaining cameo from buff and beautiful hustler (Jack Dergess), dressed as cowboy, a surprise present for the birthday boy. The night turns sour though at the arrival of Michael’s former college ‘roomie’ Alan (John Hopkins) who crashes the party. ‘Straight’ mate Alan doesn’t take kindly to the camp activities taking place, resulting in a dark turn of events and a game of truth where secrets are revealed.
The stellar cast of nine actors are impressive, each carving out their characters perfectly as they drop their façade and show their insecurities one by one. Olivier award-winning Mark Gatiss is mesmerising as the self-proclaimed ‘Jew Fairy’ Harold with his tight curly hair and velvet suit he slowly struts around, executing razor-sharp dialogue and controlling demeanour.
Gatiss’ real life husband Ian Hallard puts in a great performance as Michael, the neurotic Queen who wants everything to be perfect but can’t resist dishing out the jibes and using his acid tongue to full effect when things start to not go his way. The spotlight shines brightest on actor James Holmes as the ‘camper than Christmas’ Emory. Holmes’ overly gay portrayal has the audience in stitches as he sashays his way across the stage and delivers some fabulous one liners.
There’s no showy set changes, no gimmicks here, it’s just a pure gold script with polished direction by Adam Penford and acting that will leave you wanting to see more.
A big thumbs up go to producers Tom O’Connell and James Seabright for bringing The Boys in the Band back to the stage and delivering such an entertaining and quality production.
The Boys in the Band runs at The Lowry, Salford until 3 November, then moves to the Theatre Royal, Brighton on 8 November and the West Yorkshire Playhouse on 14 November.