Kenny Morgan

When a smell of gas emerges from flat three of a boarding house in Camden, the residents gather to find the body of a resident, Kenny Morgan, laid out by the fire. He is alive still; the meter has run out and though weak, he pulls through. In the immediate, chaotic aftermath of this discovery, an address book is searched and the famous playwright Terence Rattigan called. What follows is a moving depiction of gay experience in the late-1940s, an exploration of the shame, stigma and self-loathing that characterised hidden shadow-lives and the seeming impossibility of finding love in such circumstances.

The bond between the two men was believable and their explosive, unkind treatment of one another painful to watch.

Pierro Niel-Mee was electric to watch as the young Alec Lennox, Kenny’s lover, giving a nuanced interpretation of a conflicted individual, simultaneously insecure in his desires but mature enough to finally leave. He is an agent of autonomy and has the capacity to act, fuck, drink and move forward, while Kenny, by contrast, is an inert figure, unable to do anything constructive or make any definitive decision about his life. Both men are unhappy and ashamed and this manifests itself in different ways. Theirs is a doomed love story because they are incompatible and their aspirations ultimately antagonistic. They are caught in a recurring nightmare in which the same conversations and accusations replay but are never resolved. The bond between the two men was believable and their explosive, unkind treatment of one another painful to watch.

While this love (or lack thereof) affair felt authentically turbulent, the central relationship between Kenny (Paul Keating) and Terence Rattigan (Simon Dutton) failed to convince. There was no sense of intimacy between the two men and as a result, the play lacked an emotional core necessary to sweep the plot and the audience along. The scenes between Kenny and Rattigan felt overly drawn-out, repetitive and artificial. It is understandable that, in a play about actors and playwrights, the interaction the between lovers is dramatic, but there needed to be more quietness, tenderness and genuine reflection – moments in which the façade could have slipped. Unfortunately, it all felt jarringly performative.

However, there were some frankly outstanding performances from the supporting cast members. Mike Poulton populated the boarding house of his imagination with a diverse array of strikingly well-written tenants who command attention, despite their stage time. Notably, George Irving gave a considered and charismatic performance as Mr. Ritter, a Jewish doctor who has been struck-off. He imbued the part with measured pathos and became one of the more interesting figures to watch. Equally, in a play with such heavy themes it was refreshing to have the mood lightened by several strong comedic performances. Mrs. Simpson’s acidic comments about Kenny’s ‘theatrical’ walk and ‘musical’ personality were perfectly timed and Mr. Lloyd, the bashfully sincere neighbour who tries to forge a connection with Kenny was hilariously earnest.

Indeed, there were many things about this production that impressed, not least the set design, in which the space was made to feel stifling and claustrophobic – representative of the relationships within the play. However, Kenny was not a sympathetic enough figure at any point to elicit an emotional response. This, coupled with his stilted connection with Rattigan, meant that the climax of the play failed to realise its moving and poignant potential.

Reviews by Cal Kenny

Dorfman - National Theatre

Barber Shop Chronicles

★★★★★
Southbank Centre

Bianco

★★★
Trafalgar Studio 1 / Trafalgar Studios

Buried Child

★★★
Southwark Playhouse

Side Show

★★
The Royal Court Theatre

Torn

★★★
Soho Theatre

Two Man Show

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Kenny Morgan, a volatile tale of secrets and lies, destructive passions and unrequited love, shines a light on the turbulent relationship between the actor Kenneth Morgan and Terence Rattigan, one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated playwrights.

Drawing on the real-life events behind one of Rattigan’s greatest plays, The Deep Blue Sea, this heart-wrenching drama premieres at Arcola in a powerful new production by Lucy Bailey (Fortune’s Fool, Old Vic; Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s Globe).

Most Popular See More

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Come From Away

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets