Theatre Review - Exhibitionists

Rolando Montecalvo and Jake Mitchell-Jones in Exhibitionists [Geraint Lewis]

THE King’s Head Theatre opens their brand new 200-seater space (located four floors below the swanky shops in Islington Square) with Shaun McKenna and Andre van Sickle’s queer take on Noel Coward’s Private Lives.

Exhibitionists is billed as a modern comedy about love, sex, happiness and freedom set in the San Francisco art world, but the setting is swiftly irrelevant. The play opens in a modern art gallery, celebrating the vertiginous work of a video artist (courtesy of Matt Powell) but we could be anywhere.

Two couples – Hollywood lawyer Conor (Ashley D Gayle) and his partner Mal (Jake Mitchell-Jones) and Robbie (Robert Rees), an up-and-coming architect, and his butch garden designer fiancé Rayyan (Rolando Montecalvo) – are in the Californian art gallery for a private view.

Conor and Robbie, two old flames, discover they still have an attraction for one another they want to explore.

It could have descended into exhilarating farce, but McKenna and Van Sickle’s gay romantic comedy lacks the lustre and charm of Coward’s original although it contains some equally cutting one-liners.

It takes a while to settle into itself. At first Bronagh Lagan’s directing feels stilted, the exits and entrances contrived, and the performances are a little awkward.

The play and cast only really warm up in the final half of its 90-minute duration.

I attended the final preview. Hopefully, things will improve with the run. It’s a fun idea but the dynamic between Conor and Robbie sizzles rather than ignites, we never really root for any of the characters and the eruption into violence towards the end lacks credibility.

Originally pubished by Islington Tribune

Until February 10