Rubber Ring is the debut play by Norfolk playwright James McDermott. It’s produced by Velvet Trumpet, a company that aim to present work exploring unexamined lives, championing the work of those we don’t usually see on stage.
This tale of growing up in Norfolk is exactly that. McDermott explains, “Rural LGBT stories were rarely represented in the theatre and no playwright seemed to be writing about the county I grew up in. So I wrote Rubber Ring, a gay play set in Sheringham.”
Jimmy’s sixteen, sexually confused and living in a seaside town in Norfolk. He rarely leaves his bedroom, preferring to read books and listen to Morrissey. He knows he’s different and he knows he needs to get out of town to explore the world. Morrissey is performing in London, so Jimmy heads to the city with an empty wallet, no ticket and a desire to see his hero and be the protagonist in his own story.
Jimmy knows that he’ll fit in in London, people won’t ignore him, they will “smell like herbs” and, the dream of all teenagers in rural communities, there will be “regular buses”.
McDermott plays Jimmy and the people he meets along the way. He is an engaging performer switching between characters as he tells his story, moving around the stage, holding the attention of the audience with his storytelling. Clever lighting moves the action from Jimmy’s bedroom to the train to London and everywhere in between. The musical interludes are well chosen, adding to the story without creating a distraction from the performance.
Rubber Ring is a well written play, offering a convincing presentation of life in a place that’s “good to grow up in and good to end your days in but no good for the time in between”. This is a sensitively told tale of a young man finding his place in the world.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Nikolai Ribnikov