Arguably the most established and remarkably still unfunded, King’s Head Theatre bring us another West End Transfer: something, in itself, to celebrate. Strangers In Between by Tommy Murphy is a play which illustrates everything the King’s Head stand for; minority voices, emerging artists and a commitment to fighting prejudice. The play follows nervous sixteen year old Shane through Sydney’s King’s Cross as he attempts to navigate his way through the glitz, glamour and danger of the city, after fleeing his provincial hometown. Along the way, we see crippling sexual tension, ugly confessions, hilarious one-liners and nudity. Acclaimed Australian writer, Murphy doesn’t flinch in showing the audience the real grit behind growing up as a gay man.
The set, impressively maximising space in the small 100 seater Studio 2, is a fully functioning bathroom with a tap and bath. It is not established why the set is so prominently designed this way until the heartfelt end, when the aesthetic finally clicks into reality. Until then, with intelligent design by Backy-Dee Trevenen, the set doubles up as a liquor store, a bed-sit, a house, a bar, a laundromat and the street. The lighting and sound design are minimal, until dramatic scene transitions, where costume and set changes are either efficiently obscured, or weaved into the story to bring more to the characters.
The acting is what really brings, and keeps this show tingling for 1 hour 45 minutes. Roly Botha navigates the story with purity and makes adroit character choices which hone Shane with excellence. As an English actor, the authenticity of Botha’s strong Australian accent additionally makes his performance all the more impressive. He is most definitely a young actor to watch out for. Stephen Connery-Brown and Dan hunter also do an impeccable job with their respective characters. Hunter, in particular, cruises through the difficult job of doubling up on two integral roles and does so with plausibility and artistry. All three men integrate with refined chemistry resulting in a wholly polished performance, courtesy of director Adam Spreadbury-Maher.
What the writing really focusses on is growing up and learning about yourself. The protagonist is just a boy trying to find himself in the world. Strangers In Between is energising, gallant and joyful – a production which will ruminate with audiences for a long time.
Reviewed by Nicole Darvill-Batten
Photo: Scott Rylander