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A Lot Of It About

4 starsReviewed by Richard Stamp
Underground Venues
Run ended

A Lot Of It About tells the life story of a gay man, Ben, growing up in an age of transition: a time when homosexuality was legal, but still entirely taboo. It’s not spoiling too much to reveal that Ben rejects his true identity, and embarks on a course of sex aversion therapy, which he hopes will “cure” him of his attraction to men. Eventually, he marries the God-fearing Ann – only to discover that his feelings for his wife can now never take a physical form.

Sex is at the forefront of this play’s themes, and the dialogue, at times, is extremely frank.  But it never crosses over into crudeness; and it’s peppered with some very funny lines, many of which hover on just the right side of outrageousness.  The large cast work together selflessly and all tell the story well, but John Dayton as Ben’s first lover Kev particularly impressed me.  Kev seems, at first, to have defied society and reached an easy acceptance of who he really is… but we find out later that he’s maintaining a façade of his own.

The narrative is nicely told in flashback, with an older Ben speaking to – and often chastising – his younger self.  Such a fragmentary style of storytelling does demand a lot of concentration, but Ben’s life history is interesting enough that I found I gave the effort willingly.  Brian Gorman excelled as the older man; while he’s often a calming influence on a hectic plot, he’s also prone to justified anger, not least at the foolishness of his own youth.  The older Ann is also present, and it’s a shame we don’t hear more from her, but her parting line was a highlight of the script and well worth waiting for.

Overall though, I think the plot just had a bit too much going on.  At the heart of this play lies Ben’s decision to reject his sexuality; to me, the script’s key theme shouldn’t be the aversion therapy, but that circumstances which lead him to that sad and fateful choice.  By including scenes reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange, the play risks turning an affectingly everyday story into something slightly outlandish.  Complicating matters further, Ben suffers a motorbike crash early in the play – leaving me permanently confused about whether his later-life problems were meant to be caused by the therapy, or were simply injuries from the accident.

At the simplest level however, Ben’s tale is a story well told, imbued with a great deal of sadness but building to a hopeful, bittersweet conclusion.  I truly cared how his story ended, and truly regretted how hard his journey had been.  Credit’s due to everyone involved in this strong production.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2013.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.