Kids Play is a complex, dark but eventually heart-warming playlet – part comedy, part drama. We’re in a hotel room in Brighton during a trade convention. An older man is visited by a young lad after a hook up is set up online. Money is exchanged. Everything at one level seems so normal for those of us in the gay world used to escorts advertising on the web. The older professional man gets telephone calls from his wife, the younger 17 year old student gets calls from his mother. But as its writer Glenn Chandler – creator of the great ITV police crime series Taggart – would warrant, Kids Play is not what it seems. Just like the Glasgow based TV show, this story is full of twists and turns, tensions and surprises and character development of the protagonists that both repels us and draws us in, in equal measure. By the end of Kids Play, a tear or two may drop from your eye, because this is no normal ‘rentboy’ story.
The two lead actors are perfectly matched in this intimate tale. We get powerful performances from David Mullen (who returns to the Above The Stag after appearing in Chandler’s boarding school story Lord Dismiss Us) as the suited, professional older man who needs to keep his secrets from his inquisitive wife and newcomer Joseph Clarke takes on his first big London role and perfectly plays the naive, young lad Theo meeting up with men in places as far afield as Macclesfield and Hackney. Do not be surprised if you gasp a few times through Kids Play. You will be be grabbed and, like the Taggart stories, you must expect the unexpected.
Directed by Glenn Chandler himself, stage managed by Ellie Haffenden and with lighting by Jack Wills, the simple stage set production of the Brighton hotel room – including the sounds of seagulls – takes us right into that ‘away from home’ conference night moment.
Kids Play is an exploration of sexuality, of how we sometimes need those ‘Daddy’ and ‘Son’ roles in our complex sex lives and how sex and love are still intimately connected, whether we want to see that – and feel it – or not. There is nothing to be scared of here. This is tough stuff from a great writer, but, wow, you’ll love the journey. Highly recommended.