Sandel

Angus Stewart adapted by Glenn Chandler

Boys of the Empire

theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

From 02 August 2013 to 24 August 2013

Rating: ****

Review by Robin Strapp

Angus Stewart’s 1960’s cult novel Sandel has been lovingly adapted and skilfully directed by Glenn Chandler for Boys of the Empire Productions.

This controversial story set in Oxford in the sixties tells the love story of a talented precocious choirboy Tony Sandel, a sterling performance from Tom Cawte who perfectly captured the fourteen-year-old’s joy and enthusiasm of life.

Ryan Penny is convincing as the motor racing undergraduate David who is more than attracted to young Tony and they meet with each other weekly as their relationship develops. This is in the days when homosexuality was illegal.

Their affair is compromised when David is sent down from Oxford, following a motor racing accident, and finds himself a position as a teacher at St Cecilia’s College where Tony is the head boy.

The love affair develops despite the warnings from David’s devoutly religious university friend Bruce, a wry, erudite performance from Calum Fleming, who has the uncanny knack of turning up just at the right time to stop the two lovers having sex together.

The path they are following is fraught with danger and inevitably it leads to exposure and scandal with Tony and David fleeing the country.

This is a tender and uplifting tale impressively acted on a sparse set that is effectively used to become a punt, an organ with simple props to suggest location and period.

It’s a challenging drama made even more relevant by today’s climate and may still engender fierce debate.