Now – post lockdown – if there was ever a play worth the wait, it’s Paul Harvard’s mesmerising GHBoy.
This is about the expanding party scene in London’s East End and the snowball effect that is happening to the scene. Young men are unexpectedly dying but who is the killer? Here Harvard is very clever; the main character in the play, Robert, knows who that is, but the audience don’t know for sure who the perpetrator is. The play was inspired in part by the serial killer Stephen Port.
Robert is played by a very enigmatic Jimmy Essex who is never off stage and is perfectly cast. His brooding stage presence is phenomenal as he displays a whole gamut of powerful emotions dealing with the death of his father and his own inner demons associated with substance abuse and infidelity.
Marc Bosch who play Sergio, Robert’s boyfriend and then fiancée is equally strong bringing to his role a strength of purpose, fervour and determination as he fights to protect their relationship and help Robert get on with his life, and to realise he may be losing the battle.
GHBoy is thought-provoking stuff where Harvard explores many relevant issues – such as that temptation can be an exciting aphrodisiac. Staged with the audience on three sides, this totally adds to the majesty of the production. Director Jon Pashley’s approach is audacious, and it’s the slightly erratic nature of his direction linked by Tony Simpson’s lighting and Rona Castrioti’s sound, which is designed to bring a brutality to the way the scenes are played out as the story unfolds.
Special mention to Sylvester Akinrolabu who plays various roles and gives a gripping and menacing performance as he exploits Robert’s vulnerability for his own sexual gratification. Also all credit to Aryana Ramkhalawon as Jasminder who is not the token ‘fag hag’ but a true friend to Robert. She just wants him to be safe and secure and her scenes with Jimmy Essex have a darkly comic overtone to them that works extremely well.
Buffy Davis as Debbie, Robert’s mother, just wants the best for her son and values the fact that he wants to help her paint her front room and bring some kind of normality, if only briefly, back into her blue-eyed boy’s life. Another key character is Simon played by a very watchable Devesh Kishore who plays the psychiatrist given the task to solve some of Robert’s problems.
Harvard challenges convention as he explores the fact that the human mind can contain abstract thoughts.
This is a very masterful look at the need for self-fulfilment and expression. There are some classic scenes within the writing such as whether you declare your HIV status when forming a new and hopefully long term relationship, but that dialogue is always apt and relevant.
GHBoy is vital modern theatre and I urge you to get your ticket now.