Review: The Act (created by Thomas Hescott and Matthew Baldwin) at the Ovalhouse theatre

It was only ten days ago ago when I saw a rehearsed reading of a short play based on Peter Wildeblood’s Against The Law. Gay sex as a crime, the decriminilisation of 1967 and people caught in limbo were its themes. The Act, created by Thomas Hescott and Matthew Baldwin, occupies some of the same territory pulling a thread between the then and now in a direct way. Verbatim transcripts, personal anecdotes, imaginative leaps feed into each other to create a world where remaining true to one’s self is as much an act of bravery as it is a lifelong sacrifice.

The play is at its best when it talks about the agony and the ectsacy of falling in love. Teenage love feels like a bottomless pit, adult love is a wildfire of desires and last chances burning through everything. In those instances, the longing is bone dry, the humour – merciless, cutting but not cruel – is dipped in sorrows.

The play is less successful when dealing with the present, mostly because not enough time is given to it. Social media and liberal ideas are touched upon but these concepts don’t have enough time to develop.

Matthew Baldwin – you may know him as evil Abanazar in last year’s Get Alladin at Landor – performs the one man show with impeccable assurance. Impeccable is a key word in his presence: his characters (all of them) have mastered appearances but they brittle and break under the weight of impossible circumstances.

In the end, it’s an evening of openness, true connection, laughing when sinking through the mud. Waving not drowning. All the other way around.

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