Sunday, August 1

Leather – Finborough Theatre

Homo Promos present this staged reading of Peter Scott-Presland’s seminal queer work that caused a lot of controversy in the early nineties.

The play’s main theme resolves around gay domestic abuse both physically and mentally. It’s not an easy watch but then that’s the whole point of Scott-Presland’s outstanding piece of theatre; it leaves the audience asking many questions about relationships and offers pertinent discussion on important issues surrounding consent and non-consensual abuse.

The original play, which was performed at the Finborough Theatre came up against many obstacles one of which was Thatcher’s horrendously damaging Section 28 which prevented “the promotion of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship” thus demeaning the whole purpose of what the play was trying to say about same sex relationships.

It is a play of its time (set in the 80’s) but the story is still remarkably relevant today.

Nowadays, there is of course greater acceptance and freedom for the LGBTQ+ community and it’s to Homo Promos and Scott-Presland’s credit that they bring the play back (albeit as a Zoom staged reading) to a new and hopefully more enlightened audience.

The play reading which is directed by Patrick Kealey tells the extremely dark story of lovers Phil (Matthew Hodson) and Gordon (Denholm Spurr) and their troubled relationship with mutual friend Terry (Will Forester).

We learn during the course of the play that Gordon is a survivor of rape and Terry is into heavy sadomasochism. Gordon finds himself drawing closer to Terry and Phil is shut out.

As each character explores their own desires and emotions, we, as the audience are also drawn even deeper into what is really happening.

It is a beautifully written piece of instinctive and significant queer theatre and you could imagine the power that the play would bring to a stage if it were ever brought to a live audience.

Leather is about the cruelty of love, it’s also not afraid to discuss the damaging toxicity of control and the overwhelming unwillingness to accept personal failure and becoming subservient to others.

Kealey generously allows each of the actors to fully explore and fine tune each of their characters. I particularly enjoyed Spurr’s performance as the fragile and flawed Gordon, he was very engaging and believable throughout the zoom read and mentions must also go to Hodson as the confused and lonely Phil and Forester as Gordon’s persuasive mentor – each giving strong performances.

I did feel that the script could’ve been tighter during the first act, but it all went back into sharp focus as we went into the second act. The powerful finale was almost unbearable to watch and quite frankly horrifying but in the context of what went on before, it seemed to all lead to this mindless act of sexual rage. The sequence was handled with great care and thought. 

Overall, this is uncompromising stuff – it really does explore the dark undercurrents of the human psyche and doesn’t hide away from the truth that some seriously damaged relationships are doomed to failure.

Reviewer: Kiefer Williams

Reviewed: 15th June 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

Available on demand from Tuesday 22nd June to Tuesday 20th July on the Finborough Theatre YouTube channel and concurrently (with subtitles) on Scenesaver. https://finboroughtheatre.co.uk/production/finboroughforfree-leather/

The Zoom reading will be a benefit for Stay Brave, a volunteer-led charity providing support and advice to survivors of male rape and abuse.

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