Lion and Unicorn Theatre, London – until 18 July 2021
There’s something admirably bold about the vision behind Ben Reid’s Two Worlds No Family, a new play forefronting queer narratives and employing a visual language that suggests promise. His production for Draft99 Theatre slots into the black box of the Lion and Unicorn Theatre well though there’s no denying the subject matter can get a little brutal.
Ollie does indeed have a lot of shit to sort out. He’s a bit too keen on Tina Turner’s ‘Private Dancer’ for one, but he’s also out of work with bills are mounting up. So when a chance encounter with a handsome silver fox bearing party drugs presents a way out, it seems too good to be true. And of course it is, as a scarily slippery route to sexual exploitation is revealed, something made worse by Ollie’s deep unwillingness to talk about his problems, even with his best pals Tyler and Kat.
Thus the scene is set for a painful spiral into deeper and deeper torment. Reid’s direction sets off at a fair lick and only gets more frenetic as the overbearing weight of Olly’s situation becomes clear, chopped up snippets of increasingly serious phone calls from banks and landlords emphasising the pressure. And the presence of a silent figure who acts as an extension of his self, an embodiment of his worse impulses, hints at potential dissociation within his depression.
As the play tips into somewhere else for the final 15 minutes, it is not quite as sure-footed as it presses perhaps just a little too much to find answers and explanations that still end up a little obtuse. What is braver are the admissions of helplessness felt by too many friends of those experiencing mental health issues. Cameron Pervical impresses in drawing the ever more manic episodes that dominates Olly’s life and there’s witty and sensitive work from Amy Kitts and Tom Plenderleith as the best friends left looking on helplessly.