Away From Home
Rob Ward and Martin Jameson
Hartshorn-Hook Productions and Working Progress Theatre
Jermyn Street Theatre
Although gay marriage is now on the statute book it is still seems almost impossible for a professional footballer to come out as gay, at least until after they retire from the game? Is homophobia endemic in football?
Match that with a guy who is perfectly comfortable with his sexuality and out to his family but who has to keep quiet about the way he earns his living, a male escort, and you have the nucleus situation for this entertaining and moving play.
It is a monologue that is beautifully written and brilliantly played. It starts as football fan Kyle comes in towel-wrapped from the bathroom. He gets dressed and starts talking as he hands a drink to an unseen person on the other side of a table, suggesting that it may now be a good idea for him to see him again. Gradually, as he spills out why, the conversation is directed out to the audience without losing any of its intimacy.
Kyle is a football fanatic. He won’t see clients on Saturday. That’s a day reserved for the game with is mates. They don’t know he is gay, let alone how he earns his living, and though he is out to his parents his father doesn’t like it. They don’t know what his job is either and dad wants him to join the family business.
Then comes the day when his agent Vince rings him when he is with his mates watching the match in a pub and talks him into accepting a very special client with a big fee attached. When he knocks on the hotel door he discovers it’s a top player from his team.
Rob Ward is totally engaging as he tells of the roller-coaster ride of a secret relationship that follows, bringing scenes to life as he voices both sides of conversations with all the people whether his mates or his parents, or his footballer client. It is a graphic portrayal of the tensions of the situation, of his relations with his family and of the dramatic consequences of a love that has to stay secret and that demands that he question his work in the sex trade, much as he enjoys it. Disaster, cleverly and dramatically staged, seems to lead to a happy ending, but that sunny conclusion which will have joyful tears welling in the euyes of the more sentimental is soon turned on its head.
While a powerful picture of the stresses of being forced to stay in the closet by football’s homophobia, this play also raises questions about life in the sex industry, but it is never judgemental. Indeed, Ward’s warm and lively portrayal makes him such a lovely bloke you can’t help but accept and like him which adds to the poignancy of the play.
How much of this lovely performance is due to the director, who is his co-writer Martin Jameson, it is impossible to know but both of them would get five stars from me if British Theatre Guide went in for that kind of thing.
Already acclaimed at last year’s Manchester 24/7 Festival, Away From Home has tour dates booked through to June. Look out for it: it is not one to miss.
Reviewer: Howard Loxton