Hope Theatre, London – until 10 June 2017
Guest reviewer: Terry Eastham
Snapshot, which is currently having its world premier at The Hope Theatre, Islington, is a play about relationships. OK, that’s the end of the review. Just kidding. Obviously, Snapshot is about relationships, most plays are really but in Snapshot the relationships are all centred around one person. That man is James (Brian Martin), a young Dubliner living with his boyfriend Daniel (Joey Akubeze) in a smart apartment in Pimlico. Daniel is a currency trader and James, well he is a wannabe professional photographer just waiting for the right opportunity to come along. Whilst Daniel works hard, fourteen hour days being the norm, James kills time by meeting up with his old university roommate – and former girlfriend – Olivia (Zoë Lambrakis) and his new ‘friend’ Frank (Bruce Kitchener).
On the face of it, Jamie has it all. A handsome, successful and, let’s make no bones about it, pretty rich boyfriend. A fabulous fag hag and a nice older gentleman friend who shares his love of art and photography. But, this is not enough for our James. He wants to prove himself and more than anything, he wants to be out there an exhibiting photographer, the envy of other less talented picture takers. Fortunately, Frank may be able to help James. Of course, help is a two-way thing, as is a relationship with a former girlfriend, who seems to have accepted the fact that James is gay and in a same-sex relationship with a man he loves. Oh what a tangled web we weave etc.
Writer George Johnston has brought four very complex characters together in a story that could actually be very real. From personal experience, I know at least one of my ex girlfriends still believes one day I will return to heterosexuality and every day there will be an approach on one of the apps from a young guy looking for a generous ‘daddy’ type to look after him – its one of the perils of being over a certain age and single. So, we have four very believable characters in a realistic situation. And that combination means that Snapshot really does work well. The narrative is not structured in a linear way but as a series of snapshots that link together so that the final scene brings the audience back to the starting point with James standing behind a sofa looking at a box of pictures.
The strange thing is that maybe because everyone is so real, I really disliked three out of the four characters. James is a whiny child who never accepts responsibility and whose first instinct is to deny everything. Olivia is irritating as she does not seem to have read the FH handbook – it’s not a real book but a set of unwritten rules gay men expect their female friends to live by. I think, for me, Olivia was the least developed of the characters and, in some ways, I think more of her story needed to be told. Frank is confusing. He is both a victim and a predator. Married with a son, he longs to have the freedom to be who he really is. Whilst I’m sure he has some feelings – other than lust – for James, he needs to be in total control of their ‘friendship’ and have it work on his level.
All three actors need to be applauded for their portrayals of these people. Especially Brian who spends over 90% of the time on the stage and has to move his mood in huge swings as scenes change and we move backwards and forwards in time. Overall, my favourite character was Daniel. Yes, he is a city financier and therefore probably related to beelzebub. Daniel appears hard at work because that is what is expected of him and because he is a realist about money and wealth, but at home he is also a warm human being who obviously loves James with a passion that is all-consuming.
Director James McAndrew ensures the story moves along nicely and there were some really great touches as one scene ended and another started where characters exchange significant looks as they move across the stage. Hats off as well to Set Designer Fiona Rigler – particularly for the stunning backdrop and Lighting Designer Tom Turner who created a really nice apartment in the intimate space of The Hope’s stage.
Snapshot was an enthralling play that, despite the heat – and believe me it was hot – kept my attention throughout with believable characters in realistic situations reacting in ways that I could identify, understand and thank the lord it wasn’t me.