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Tory Boyz

James Graham's 2008 play is revived as part of the National Youth Theatre's season at the Ambassadors Theatre

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Tory Boyz
© Helen Maybanks

The National Youth Theatre first performed James Graham's Tory Boyz at the Soho Theatre five years ago, so it's intriguing to see this updated revival, acted by the new NYT Rep Company, in the wake of Posh, the last General Election, the Tory party's approval - at Westminster, if not in the shires - of gay marriage, and Graham's Parliamentary smash-hit This House at the National.

Sam the schools researcher in the Conservative Party's House of Commons department works in the office once occupied by Edward Heath before he became Prime Minister. Sam's sexual diffidence with a Labour Party opposite number (male), and his stand-off with the chief-of-staff bully, is paralleled with the allegedly repressed sexuality of Heath's ghost, his music and his abandoned nearly-girlfriend.

It's a deft and beautifully wrought piece of writing, as good as anything in This House, complementary in some ways to Alexei Kaye Campbell's The Pride in its shifting time spheres and the way it floods Sam's various relationships - with his Labour friend; Sope Dirisu's strikingly repellent chief; the schoolchildren he canvases; and even the innocent new intern - with fear, anxiety and emotion.

And Simon Lennon gives a beautiful, delicately inflected performance as this idealistic square peg from the north, stalked by Niall McNamee's taciturn Ted Heath - who kept files on MPs suspected of "irregular" behaviour when a junior whip and was himself, according to MI5 records, snared in a gay honey trap with a Czech organist.

The point being that, even with David Cameron's apparent liberalism on the subject, gay relationships are still a tricky area for the Conservative Party, even though it's obviously rife with them.

The play's very funny, often brutal, at exposing these quirks and fads in speech and misconceptions, and Thomas Hescott's production moves the fifteen-strong cast around with great efficiency on James Button's design of a close-up scenic representation of Big Ben.

There's a lovely scene, too, when a bereft Heath - his mother, to whom he was devoted, now dead - meets up with the woman who wanted to marry him. It's like something in Terence Rattigan; and, even ten years ago, that might not have been interpreted as praise.

For more information on Tory Boyz, click here