Away From Home is the sensitive, touching tale of Kyle, who in his capacity as a rent boy is used to his fair share of sensitive touching. Thankfully, there is also a healthy dose of raucous good humour and devilish filth, which ensures a compelling portrait that’s hard not to fall in love with.
Rob Ward, the one man of this one man show, is terrific as Kyle. He’s a skilled actor, engaging and believable, who beautifully brings out his character’s many sides.
Admittedly, the story does not sound promising. Kyle, a talented and in-demand Liverpudlian rent boy, falls unexpectedly in love with an unnamed footballer of some much detested team. This description implies twee sentimentality, which does the play a disservice. While Away From Home sometimes flirts with being little more than a gay twist on Pretty Woman, it is ultimately more savvy, savage, and human than the comparison suggests.
Rob Ward, the one man of this one man show, is terrific as Kyle. He’s a skilled actor, engaging and believable, who beautifully brings out his character’s many sides. Kyle is at turns admirable, pitiful, and hilarious and Ward handles each mood well. In the minor roles, Ward proves himself to be an accomplished chameleon. Kyle’s camp, mincing pimp Vincent is so well drawn that even though Ward only mimes him smoking you somehow know that there is a cigarette holder between those two fingers and not just a cigarette. His portrayal of boisterous football fans is similarly well observed; the mixture of bonhomie banter and violence strikes the right tone.
The script, written by Ward himself and Martin Jameson, is cleverly structured. It begins with Kyle explaining to his latest shag why his body is covered in cuts and bruises. Was it the result of a homophobic attack? Was it a client who turned nasty? When it comes, the answer is as sad as it is funny and completely satisfying. The writing is also blissfully free of the clichéd tropes usually found in any ‘gay lifestyle’ play. Kyle is never portrayed as the personification of a category, but is given his own distinct voice and existence. There is some well-aimed political point-scoring against the FA, but that is the exception. The play avoids didacticism, finding instead the ambivalent human situation beneath political discourse.
There are some missteps, however. The punchline of one sequence is easily spotted and goes on for too long. A family scene of bitter squabbling stretches on for too long as well. Sometimes, the show doesn’t quite pull off its flirtation with sentimentality, which leads to some overly gushing emotion that is out of step with the overall quality of the show.
The play asks, in the grand tradition of soul searching and football chanting, who are you? How can you have any integrity until you know at least that? It’s an important question delivered with sincerity and skill in Away From Home.