JAMES MACNAMARA concludes this term’s theatre reviews with yet another plea. Do this kind of kind of thing again, but with less gay jokes.

ADC, 11pm, Thur 14th – Sat 16th March, £5/£6

by Jack Gamble and Tom Powell

directed by Jack Gamble and Freddie Crossley


I once told this pair to stop being so serious and to write what I thought at the time was their true calling – an accomplished comedy. This they have dutifully biffed off and kind-of achieved. The cruel canon-makers have their way once again.

But they haven’t quite obeyed my clear instructions. A packed house last night was rarely guffawing in unison. Pockets of laughter sparkled around the ADC like a slightly broken merry-go-round. You know when you’re watching a really good comedy when everyone is laughing, and the urge to turn around and laugh at each other and slap each other on the back like drunken gentleman’s club members has overcome the natural instinct to look forward and stay schtum. Once or twice that feeling was present, but no more.

In 1964, this play would have been at the top of mount comedy. Mount… sex… bottoms… homosexuals… homosexuals are funny… lets have lots of references to homosexuals and, you know, those funny gays. They are funny. They like bottoms. But what about female gays? Less funny. They don’t have funny voices. Male gays in uniform, that is the ticket to the purest funny fun a funny man could have.

There is so much of that kind of humour in Cloying. People are so ready to laugh at it. WHY! It’s so old and tired. And yet, I giggled a couple of times. What is with this schtick? Am I a closet homophobe? I remember once, my father and I were flicking through TV channels trying to find something good, and we came across two people kissing passionately, and we were like: hellooo this looks interesting. But then a close up occurred and revealed it was two men, and we were like NOOOOO, and swiftly switched over. It was so, so funny. Were we laughing at our own preconceptions of romantic love, so cruelly satirised by the complexities of BBC channel hopping? Or were we laughing at the gays? If you watch this play, these kinds of questions might just pop up. I hope they do, at least.

However, I did laugh at quite a lot whilst watching this play. There are some very good funny ha-ha ‘I do English’ jokes, that seemed to be totally lost on a really quite full audience. I suppose everyone else doing English apart from me was at Rudimental at Fez with their mates Charlie and Mandy, but there we are. In fact, the audience totally baffled me. Some really clever lines got almost no acknowledgement. Lines straight from Carry On circa 1960 got big laughs. Do people not watch Peep Show? The Office? South Park? Some of the lines in Cloying, and the way they are delivered, are worthy of those shows.

And so, it is some of the performances in this year’s Harry Porter Prize Winner that really make it worth seeing. The central couple, played by Emma Powell and Femi Oriogun-Williams, are always charming, even during some of the cringe-worthy so-bad-it’s-good-but-not-really-it’s-bad kind of lines they occasionally had to deliver. But the real star of the show is Conor McKeown’s Sebastian, the conceited and ridiculous novelist aboard the boat. (Ok, ok, I forgot the plot. Murders happen on a boat. If you wanted a boring, clichéd review that gives a pointless overview of the story and goes on to say some really boring things about the play that anyone might have observed, then look to Varsity). Scenes that may have fallen flat on their face are kept alive by McKeown. He’s one to watch.

Tom and Jack, Powell and Gamble. Generally, I did quite like this play. With a few less obvious gay-jokes, I would probably watch it again. And so, I implore you… keep writing and acting, because you do offer something to the scene, despite what I may have previously suggested. I’m going to get drunk now guys. Good luck with exams. AND THAT’S A WRAP. (Cheese and pickle, of course…)