Review: tell me straight (Chiswick Playhouse)

Paul Bradshaw stars in his own coming-of-age comedy drama as Him, a young gay man finding his way through casual romance in London.

With George Greenland utilising a coat stand and table of props to embody a range of supporting characters, we follow Him from childhood ice pops through to a fade out kiss.

He’s attracted to the forbidden fruit, the non-committal, the bi-curious, the pansexuals, the straights. Labels probably don’t matter – he is constantly berated by his off-screen female friend Dani (Stephanie Levi-John) to embrace the rainbow of gay men and try commitment, but it isn’t that simple.

Production image from tell me straight

In Imogen Frances’s thoughtful production, and in a set which presents just two chairs and light/sound cues (by Chloe Stally Gibson/Roly Botha) to indicate different locations, we follow Him to auditions, as he teaches elocution to entitled boys, and engages in social encounters with friends Matt, Ryan, and fellow actor Lee.

There’s a lot of humour here, but difficult scenes too as Him constantly mis-steps. At first I didn’t warm to him, but the characters grows on you as he opens up more to what he wants. A fumble, an assault, a story about socks, finding out what love is: it is all here.

Bradshaw’s play is full of moments and motifs. The unseen characters are introduced thick and fast. Monopoly Man, The Chef, The Soldier, and more, flit in and out of Him’s life, while he reaches again and again for non-committment.

Production image from tell me straight

Bradshaw and Greenland display chemistry in all their couplings, with the characters clearly delineated. By the time we meet Dani’s assistant director friend we realise Him has a particular type – but can he ever change?

tell me straight is a well-written and thoughtful piece, curiously understated at times but also very honest about one man’s personal experience and ability to tell it through drama.

You can see tell me straight at Chiswick Playhouse (above The Tabard pub in Turnham Green) until 26 February. Book your tickets here.

Image credit: Danny Kaan