The newly refurbished Tristan Bates Theatre (now renamed Seven Dials Playhouse) is the perfect setting for this play in which the first scene takes place in a Joe Allen restaurant, and the New York bar setting of the theatre compliments this perfectly.
The writer Mark Gerrard has (rather annoyingly) called three of the characters similar names, Stephen (Joe Aaron Reid), Steven (David Ames), and their son Stevie, who we do not see, but who is talked about extensively. The annoying aspect is that it does take some time to understand who is who at the outset, so some of the nuances of the first scene may be lost as you figure out which Steven/Stephen/Stevie, they are talking about.
Five old friends meet at Joe Allen’s to celebrate Steven’s birthday, Carrie (Jenna Russell), and Steven and Stephen who are a couple, arrive first and it is clear from the initial conversation that something is amiss between Stephen and Steven. Carrie is sporting a snazzy headscarf and we realise that she is undergoing cancer treatment. When their friends, also a couple, Matt (Michael Walters) and Brian (Giles Cooper) arrive, Steven has already downed a Vodka Stinger and after an altercation over his partner Stephen’s mobile phone, he lets the cat out of the bag that he knows about Stephen’s affair with Brian. Esteban (Nico Conde) the waiter and a dancer, is interested in Steven, after hearing that he used to be a dancer, he has a habit of popping up through the play in his different jobs and throws another curve ball into an already fraught situation.
The play looks at the lives of these individuals who are trying to love and to make relationships work in their own way. Brian and Matt’s open relationship contrasts with Steven and Stephen’s, who have a son to consider and prefer to have a more conventional approach – or do they? Carrie, who is terminally ill, is Steven’s confidant and during their conversations we realise that she has recently suffered heartbreak after the ending of her relationship with Lisa.
There are interesting interpretations made by director Andrew Keates, the revolving stage allows the audience to see the expressions of all the characters as they sit at the restaurant table giving it a feeling of watching the show in-the-round. Other nice touches are the video images designed by Dick Straker and Barbara Senoltova, the café where Steven and Carrie meet really does feel like it is on the high street.
The script has injections of humour which are carried off nicely by the cast, but it is the ability of this play to look at relationships, of lovers and friends and to challenge the view that love should be monogamous. There are touching moments between Steven and Carrie when you realise that they have a close emotional attachment and that they have helped each other through their romantic problems and that time is not on their side.
Add to all this, the piano music playing musical pieces throughout the show which completes this play beautifully. The play and playhouse are utterly charming!
Steve runs until the 19th March and tickets can be bought via this link to the Seven Dials Playhouse’s website – https://sevendialsplayhouse.ticketsolve.com/shows/1173618044/events/428423996
Reviewer: Caroline Worswick
Reviewed: 16th February 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★