Extra Virgin tells the story of the awkward minutes after a Grindr hook-up. It begins with an orgasm, but then very cleverly builds up to a much bigger emotional climax by the end of the play. Written by Howard Walters and marking Peter Bull’s return to directing after ten years this is a thoroughly captivating hour of theatre. Noah (James Farley) and Elliot (Alexander Hulme) are about to go on a roller coaster as their past comes back to haunt them, but the question hangs in the air throughout the play ‘is this an anonymous hook-up, or is one of them playing a much more sinister game?’
If you've always wondered how dangerous a Grindr hook up might get you need to give Extra Virgin a watch.
Alexander Hulme is the more masculine of the two characters, the muscular lothario who seemingly turned up for sex and nothing else, yet we can see the turmoil within him, and as Noah’s character pushes him further and further into revealing his secrets his anger is made more believable. His threatening behaviour towards Noah is terrifying, and we genuinely fear for Noah’s safety as the attacks start to get physical.
James Farley absolutely shines as the young twink-turned-therapist Noah. His character has multiple layers and throughout the course of Extra Virgin we’re allowed to see the complexity of them all. The emotional punches which hit Noah seem to hit all of us and this is one of the strongest performances I have ever seen at Above the Stag. Timothee Chalamet should be nervous.
Whilst Howard Walters’ play is not the most outrageous, it comes from a very real place. The twists and turns might not be total surprises but they do feel as though they belong in the narrative and it is definitely thanks to the entire team that created this production that we are able to be entertained throughout and we hung on every word.
Peter Bull’s direction was spot on, too. Most of the action takes place on a bed, and with an audience on two sides they were well positioned to give everyone a great view of both actors whilst keeping the piece looking very natural. It truly felt as though we were spying on Noah’s bedroom.
Special mention must go to Andrew Beckett. The set design was, as usual in Above the Stag, stunning. The various posters on the wall, the bookcases, and all the furniture – right down to the bedsheets and cushions, created one of the more realistic bedrooms I have ever seen in a theatre, let alone in a studio space. All the Above the Stag set designers should be immensely proud of their work.
All in all this a wonderful hour of theatre, and if you have not yet been to the studio theatre in Above the Stag’s new premises this would be a wonderful fist choice. A brand new work of theatre for a modern audience in one act. If you like thrillers and always wondered how dangerous a Grindr hook up might get you need to give Extra Virgin a watch.