Remembrance Monday

Michael Batten
M Green Productions in association with Seven Dials Playhouse
Seven Dials Playhouse

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Nick Hayes as Julius and Matthew Stathers as Connor Credit: Danny Kaan
Nick Hayes as Julius and Matthew Stathers as Connor Credit: Danny Kaan
Nick Hayes as Julius and Matthew Stathers as Connor Credit: Danny Kaan
Nick Hayes as Julius Credit: Danny Kaan

Michael Batten’s new play, premièring here in-the-round, is set in a bathroom. Nick Hayes, playing Julius, is already stretched out in the bath as the audience enter. When the play proper starts, he is joined by Matthew Swathers playing his husband Connor. They have been a couple for a long time, a seemingly well set up and happy one.

Julius is a former dancer, Connor a painter (he is painting a portrait of Julius for his birthday). Connor is getting ready to go out without Julius to celebrate his oldest friend’s birthday. It is a moment the play keeps returning to as, in a mixture of memory and imagining, it gives glimpses of the life they have had together including an initial meeting through Grindr, Connor’s proposal and their dream wedding with its poetic vow-making.

Some early laughs are misleading; this is no camp comedy. Jack Weir’s dramatic pinpoint lighting sets the mood and, despite the flesh on show, there is nothing titillatory. Julius modestly, if illogically, bathes with his pants on, but Alan Souza’s is a stylised production that embraces balletic movement and, as Connor does his hair, isn’t he on the wrong side of the mirror—are we seeing a reflection of a man who perhaps isn’t really there?

They may still look fit, but these are men with their youth behind them. Julius’s dance career being over probably exacerbates his lack of confidence in his own attractiveness. Connor may love only him, but his need for sexual variety with other men makes Julius unsettled and jealous.

This is a play about need and about memory that takes a tragic twist. It would be a spoiler to say more, but it goes on to explore a challenge we could all face. Nick Hayes and Matthew Swathers deliver sensitive performances that will move you. This isn’t a play to cheer you up, but its 80 minutes will hold you as they explore unexpected territory. It is well worth seeing.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton

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