Friday, 22 February 2013

Stop Kiss

Leicester Square Theatre, London


***

Written by Diana Son

Directed by Noah James


Olivia Hunter  and Rae Brogan
Stop Kiss is a grim piece of theatre, charting the impact of a brutal hate crime committed against young New Yorker Sara, by a homophobe who spied her kissing girlfriend Callie on a Central Park bench. Written by Diana Son in 1998 and rarely performed in the UK, the play interweaves flashbacks of the burgeoning love between the two women with present day scenes addressing the aftermath of Sara’s beating.
Rae Brogan as infant school teacher Sara proves herself as a convincing and very versatile young actress. Her accent and her attitude are well maintained throughout and there is an electric tenderness of attractiveness around her that explains Callie’s growing love for her. Brogan manages the frequent switches from recovering coma victim to a vivacious pre-attack lover skilfully and is perhaps the main reason for seeing this production.
Olivia Hunter’s distraught Callie, on stage for nearly all of the play’s length, tackles a huge role, but never really breaks out of seeming to try too hard. Whilst her enthusiasm in the flashback scenes of petulant playful argument and flirting with Sara works well, her grief in the scenes that are set after the attack, lack gravitas. To be fair, such distress is a tall order for any performer to deliver well, however under the merciless scrutiny of a (very up-close) audience, anything less than a five-star portrayal of such agony, delivered by an actor at the top of their game, runs the risk of appearing flawed. Georgia Buchanan plays a stolid investigating cop and veteran Victoria Kempton puts in a sympathetic performance as an elderly witness to the beating. The two men in the cast, Jamael Westman and Seb Blunt whose characters have enjoyed relationships with Callie and Sara respectively, both put in performances that are frankly too wet behind the ears and almost detract from the professionalism of the production, though in their defence, both roles are poorly fleshed out by Son.
Noah James makes a competent directorial debut in Libertine Productions' first show,  but whilst the play’s message is still relevant and also strong, its writing and structure lack a similar strength. It becomes just too predictable, as the audience becomes accustomed to realising that the next emotive  flashback, or beep of the hospital cardiac monitor, is only likely to be a few minutes away. Stonewall have lent their support to this piece and if its argument moves you, then buy a ticket and cheer it on.

Runs to March 9th 2013 

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