Theatre Review: Circa Goes Round And Round

Circa, Old Red Lion Theatre ★★☆☆☆

By Mike C

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Theatre Review: Circa Goes Round And Round Circa, Old Red Lion Theatre 2
Photo: Lidia Crisafulli

"No one's ever done anything like this before!" exclaims one of the Act I characters in Tom Ratcliffe's Circa. Oh but they have, I want to shout out, as a fairly predictable first act drives home its point — it's lonely being gay, even in the 21st century with Grindr and whatnot — like an Uber from G-A-Y to his place in Balham.

Circa's not without funny and touching moments, in a sort of soapy sitcom-y fashion, but it lacks a new way of saying what we know, La Gay Ronde played out again. This includes the old/new "shall we have a baby? Why not get a dog?" dialogue, which appears to be 'a thing' in drama at the moment.

Things start to rev up in Act II, so much so that it could almost be a different play. The Man's (all characters have similarly descriptive names) life hasn't turned out quite so perfect — abandoned by two lovers, he's thrown his lot in with normality, desperate for acceptance and still wanting to find The One. But Jenna Fincken's The Solution isn't the answer at all, as her lukewarm heterosexual lovemaking and millennial vocal fry are perhaps meant to suggest. It's no Run For Your Wife — instead, Plastic (a power turn by Thomas Flynn in a show-stealing wig) emerges to save the day, a sort of cross-dressing tart with a heart and more than a shade of the Audrey Roberts mixed with Pink about her.

Ultimately we wind up back at the start, though this time it's the young man with all the cards in his hand, rejecting the voice of experience to chart his own course.

Isolation in our always-on world is a complex subject for exploration and Daniel Abelson, believable and sympathetic as The Man, is puzzled, angry and bemused by his situation. Luke W Robson works hard with the limited space and budget to create a compact and economical set that gives visualisation to stylish but empty lives. But despite some nice comic business and a few genuine moments of pathos, Circa is too uneven and fitful to get under the skin of it, settling instead for a series of vignettes that eventually come round in a circle leading us... not very far.

Circa, The Old Red Lion, 418 St John Street, EC1V 4NA, £16.50. Until 30 March

Last Updated 11 March 2019