There are two things that have to be mentioned when it comes to this review of Gary Thomas’ stunning play The 49, about the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre. The first is the power of the narrative; the second, the trio of young actors that, with a full commitment to the story, achieved a lasting impression.
The play opens with Carlo, played by Aaron Douglas, leaving his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida and heading towards Orlando, so he can be himself. Along the way he meets Jessica, played by Yasmine Holness-Dove, and a friendship and a mutual respect and love for each other blossoms.
Pulse, the nightclub, quickly becomes the nightspot where they can feel safe and a have good time, and it is here where Carlo meets and falls for Tom, played by a very watchable Harold Addo. Carlo’s character also acts as narrator and this adds a very poignant and ironic tone to his speeches, which are made directly to an audience that knows what is going to happen.
The build up to the atrocity is very well paced and the last few minutes become a fitting tribute to the people that were murdered. The abruptness and chaos and the disbelief of what was suddenly going on around them inside the club as the gunman opened fire is beautifully played by the three actors. The 43-minute running time is sharp and with the added explosion of the single gun shot echoing behind the actors’ ears you get a real sense of the horror of that night.
Thomas has written an inspiring tribute to the people that lost their lives that night. If you can’t get to see this play before it finishes at the N16 in Balham on 17 June then you can see it at the Marlborough Theatre in Brighton on 21 and 22 June. Stephen Vowles