“It’s so rare these days to see a play about optimism,” the wonderful actor Malcolm Sinclair told me after a performance of Gently Down the Stream at the Park Theatre. Malcolm had attended the press night two days earlier and loved Martin Sherman’s new play so much that he returned with his partner and another friend.
I have to agree with Malcolm (as, clearly, do most reviewers), and was so pleased to have him there to add his own observations during the post-show discussion with Martin and this UK premiere.
Gently Down the Stream had its world premiere in 2017 at New York’s Public Theatre, starring Harvey Fierstein. Here, Jonathan Hyde plays Beau, a retired American pianist living in London, who begins an affair with Rufus (played by Ben Allen), an eccentric and much-younger British lawyer. Coming of age during the 1970s, Beau’s cautious approach to the relationship has been seasoned by a life of loving men in a world that initially refused to allow it.
Through Beau’s eyes, and Hyde’s moving monologues conjuring the shadows of these doomed former lovers, we, Rufus and his new partner Harry (Harry Lawtey) learn, from a very personal and intimate perspective, what previous generations of gay men and women have gone through and how much we have to appreciate today, even during our darkest days.
At the post-show discussion, we talked about this, the differences between knowing the past and understanding history, the fragility of hope, little things that make us happy – not least, for Martin Sherman, “this production”. There was also so much appreciation for Martin and his career to date, including Bent and The Boy from Oz (one theatregoer shared how this afforded him the opportunity to dance with Hugh Jackman!).
This production of Gently Down the Stream also celebrates Martin Sherman’s 80th birthday. So once again, happy birthday, Martin! The best present we can all give is to see the production and make it a big hit.
Gently Down the Stream continues at the Park Theatre until 16 March 2019. Click here for tickets!