For all the obvious reasons it’s been a couple of years or so since I visited the Finborough Theatre; I was surprised to discover that the pub underneath has been closed down. Hopefully the theatre will remain and with product of the sort I saw there yesterday it would be a crying shame if that were not the case. Currently playing, and granted a week’s extension on the back of rave notices, is Bacon a new(ish, because delayed by Covid) play by Sophie Swithinbank which takes an unflinching look at the lives of two teenage boys in Isleworth and how their relationship leads to tragic consequences for both.
Mark is new to Year 10 having moved schools for some unspecified problem that he was having. Studious, even somewhat nerdy, he’s a loner whose best friend is his dog and who thinks colour coding his geography notes is a neat idea. He bumps up against Darren who is his polar opposite being loud, brash, defensively aggressive and persistently in trouble with any form of authority. And yet a bond forms between them. Neither is popular – though for different reasons; both are the product of single parent families – Mark’s mother is possibly over protective, Darren’s father is definitely abusive. This common ground draws them closer together and as their feelings for each other grow stronger this leads to insecurities and tension; ultimately Darren recreates the abuse to which he has been subject leaving both boys in a state of trauma. A recurring framing device shows the pair meeting up some years after their initial encounter with a question mark over how matters will be resolved – if at all.
This is clever writing by Swithinbank, ensuring a strong dose of double jeopardy in both timelines. She also has a remarkable ear for the argot of the two fifteen year olds, particularly Darren’s swagger, Mark’s desire to fit in and both character’s underlying insecurity. Her words are thrillingly brought to life by the superb playing of both Corey Montague-Sholay (Mark) and William Robinson (Darren) who clearly have a deep connection as players and bounce off each other with spot on timing and a nuanced eye and ear for what makes their characters tick. They both transcend the roles and make them into real people to the point where you forget you are watching a constructed piece of drama. Apparently the play is being developed for television – I trust the pair will both be snapped up along with it.
The play is also brilliantly served by the pacy direction of Matthew Iliffe and the design of Natalie Johnson. The Finborough is an intimate space, and the traverse staging brings the audience even closer to witness the intense story unfold. A monochromatic colour palette is dominated by a huge grey seesaw at stage centre which pivots (sometimes with great force) to show the balance of power shifting between the pair. It is also a potent reminder that they are at that tricky stage where they try to achieve some equilibrium between boyhood and manhood and, of course, their sexual identities which are subject to violent fluctuations. Bacon is a very happy marriage of ideas, writing, performing, direction and design which delivers so much more than the sum of its parts. It isn’t on for much longer so hurry along if you can.
I wanted to finish this review by mentioning the front of house staff. Not usual in a review, but I wanted to highlight the very polite yet firm way in which the Finborough’s people went about ensuring that temperatures were taken, covid documentation was checked and, above all, getting the entire audience to be masked throughout. Too many venues currently talk the talk about keeping audiences and their casts safe and then conspicuously fail to walk the walk. Not so here and it certainly helped to lower my blood pressure and enjoy the performance all the more – many thanks for sticking to your guns.
Bacon is at Finborough Theatre – click here – for just a few more days
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One thought on “Bacon (Review – Onstage)”
Absolutely fantastic production.