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Blowing Whistles (Manchester Pride - Fringe)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Venue: Taurus
Where: Manchester

Nigel (Ben Rigby) and Jamie (Haydn Holden) celebrate their tenth anniversary by having a threesome with Mark  (Robert Feldman) - a stranger they met via the internet. Mark takes a calculative approach to his sexuality – staying closeted to avoid damage to his career – and does not entirely enjoy all of the gay lifestyle. But then he is only seventeen. Mark acts as a catalyst bringing to the surface resentments and fears that are hidden in Nigel and Ben’s relationship.
Blowing Whistles will not be to everyone’s taste. Some will find it too explicit others too wordy. But it succeeds by having the nasty sting of truth. Matthew Todd’s script balances humour with passion leading to a scorching showdown in Act Two. However, his reluctance to risk the audience misinterpreting the play results in an over- literal approach with plot points ponderously spelt out. We are given a verbal confirmation of Nigel’s infidelity even though it has already been revealed by a subtler visual clue.
Director Amy Derber drops us into the messy heart of the couple’s flat. The warm, intimate atmosphere that she creates makes the final scenes all the more powerful. But Derber’s pacing is less certain. Developments that should have a tragic inevitability take ages to materialise.
The cast are exceptional though, as Holden takes Jamie towards the point where he can admit that he is not so much weary of the superficial lifestyle the couple have adopted but rather longing for something more substantial and simple – love. His growing horror as he realises his desires might not be shared is heartbreaking. Feldman’s cocky ( in every sense of the word) interpretation of Mark is perfect for a character so confident in his approach to the future.

Meanwhile Rigby bravely does not hide Nigel’s amoral and predatory nature he is able to show how these features have developed from a desperate fear of loneliness. Impressively, he shows that, despite Nigel’s repellent characteristics, there is an animal magnetism that explains his attraction.
Laced Banana are a new company and Blowing Whistles is their first production. The high quality of the play justifies the company’s enthusiasm and nicely cheeky promotional material.

- Dave Cunningham


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