Glen Chandler, Edinburgh’s theatrical detective story-writing son, returns to the Festival Fringe this year with yet another ingenious triumph. The only similarity to Kids Play and anything that might be found in Taggart, however, is a pair of handcuffs. He’s changed the tone from the hugely successful and hilarious Lord Dismiss Us romp of last year to a two-handed tale that he describes as an ‘emotional corkscrew of a play with surprises galore’.
Take out your tissues and prepare to be stunned.
Despite the title, this play is certainly not for children. Theo (Clement Charles) is a gay, 17-year-old, academically bright, good-looking boy whose job in the supermarket fails to pay for his lifestyle and who in any case really needs love more than money. Greg is a businessman with a secret life and multiple fetishes that would destroy his marriage with the crack of a whip. If only she knew!
They two meet up in a hotel room in Brighton while Greg is attending a conference there. Things haven’t gone quite to plan even before the encounter and they soon embark on course that in the end leaves them both in a different world. The path is often dark, the summer night's hot and the humour sharp. The whole is a breathtaking study in loneliness, frustration and deceit through which shines hope.
Charles was last year’s big discovery for Chandler. He had just completed his first year at Birmingham School of Acting and was appearing in the monologue About a Goth with Gritty Theatre. The play and the young man caught his eye. He went to see it at least three times. On each occasion he became more convinced that he had found the actor for whom he would write his next piece. His sound judgement has paid off. Charles has the looks, the ability to portray youthful naivety with determination and a focused understanding of characterisation that enables him to carry us through Theo’s torn existence with sympathy and understanding. His slender physique stands in stark contrast to the manly, exercised body of Watkins. After his partying performance in 5 Guys Chillin’ last year, he now creates a distraught yet pensive character who keeps us in the present while his mind is clearly in other places. The pairing provides stark contrasts and an affectionate coupling in a dynamic match.
Writing is certainly not kids’ play for Chandler. His Christmas production is already written and he’s well under way with research for next year’s contribution to the Festival Fringe. With shows like this, let’s hope his pen never dries up. In the meantime, take out your tissues and prepare to be stunned.