The Circle of Love

Sitting in a restaurant on the South Bank, my best friend and I were having a heart to heart. We talked and laughed about finding the man of our dreams, personality vs looks, ideal first date, proposals, engagements, weddings, children, divorce and retirement. All we needed was the cries of a violin.

Testing my flirting skills, I tried to be “overly friendly” with our male waiter. My best friend laughed and mouthed “he belongs to my side”. Debating to fetch my lightsaber or throw a sulk, I responded with my tales of unlucky love. He shook his head, “You don’t realise how lucky you are. You have a sea of men to choose from. I’m swimming in a paddling pool with armbands and a rubber ring”.

He explained about the complexities of being a gay man and the desire to settle down. He spoke about the focus of a “thrust and go” and the frustration of seeking a partner who sings from his hymn sheet – starting a family. Wanting to hug across the table, I felt like a fraud, unable to understand where he was coming from…until I watched work.Theatre’s Circa.

work.Theatre's Circa Photo Credit: Eitan Bernat
Circa. Photo Credit:Eitan Bernat

Circa follows the story of a man’s navigation through romantic life, exploring the dangers of expectation and how relationships can shape you into a person you never expected to become.

The twenty-first century. Homosexuality is now more integrated than ever. Marriage is legal, parenthood is possible and ‘homophobics’ are now the one’s shunned from society. The time has arrived to replace promiscuity with ever-lasting companionship: but is it really that simple?

Massaging the gorgeous buttocks of playwriting, Tom Ratcliffe has scored the perfectly rounded script. With its roots planted in sexuality, Circa soils and waters the traumas of self-identity, confidence, masculinity, loneliness, and most of all, love. Sucking up the tears and swallowing the pride, it was amazing how the story of a gay man could speak to the heart of a heterosexual woman. Love always wins!

Leading Circa with an unbreakable force, The Man (Scott Westwood) weaves the narrative through The Older Man’s (David Meyer) self-discovery. Longing to search for “the one”, Westwood bottles The Man’s sexual frustrations, domesticated urges and loving openness, pouring them into a great big puddle of failing relationships. Constantly with another lover, he trades sex and confidence in hope for stability.

With a yapping dog called Princess, The Older Man provides the calming wisdom towards The Man’s pumped eagerness for the bedroom. Disconnecting the broadband of emotions, karma chases The Man throughout the play, teaching him the lessons of kindness, respect and real love.

The interchangeable set design enables the cast to possess the grace of a transformer. Invading the stage with their slick and fierce determination, they snap at the heels of scene changes. Swishes of moving wooden door frames and the slow rotation of white boxes symbolised an everlasting concept of time and space. This gentle orbit of The Man and his lovers stripping on a moving platform, blasted away the sleazy “let’s get it on” lust for a comforting embrace of submission.

work.Theatre's Circa Photo Credit: Eitan Bernat
Circa. Photo Credit: Eitan Bernat

Idolising the ground art he walks models on, The First Love (Freddy Carter) pumps The Man’s heart into silly wild flutters and the grown up seriousness corrupts his innocence and vulnerability. Carter’s boyish charm heightens the nervousness towards The First Love’s new relationship and scrambles for confidence to reveal his future plans. The Man’s vision tumbles off the Eiffel Tower as The First Love announces his relocation to Paris for his art studies.

Spiralling in his rejection and grief, The Man begins his quest to find a compatible partner, but his heart still beats for The First Love. From this moment, Circa is cherished as a heart-shattering plea to find lost time.

“That’s what everyone says isn’t it? Gay men shag everything. Disease and all that.
My mum, when I came out, the first thing she said to me was ‘don’t get AIDS’…
But things are different now. They’ll be different for us.”

Loving the fresh street boy attitude, The First Fling and The Partner (Nathan Welsh) energised Circa with an exciting playful burst of high charge. Welsh’s cocky, violent harshness really hammers that message home – the love of being single and simply having fun. He rejects the ties of The Man’s commitments and stands for freedom without settlement.

Playing The Drunken Encounter and The Hombre Perfecto, Zed Josef gave a brilliant performance as a talented character shifter. Acting as the reincarnation of Jekyll and Hyde, Josef provided his characters with conflicting attitudes. As a selfish, sexual predator, The Drunken Encounter is a pompous businessman, focused on having a business head. The Hombre Perfecto was the body and heart of a Spanish fantasy and rejected by The Man’s foolishness.

work.Theatre's Circa Photo Credit: Eitan Bernat
Circa. Photo Credit: Eitan Bernat

As The Solution, Jenna Fincken plays Circa’s flirtatious tease and mentally kicks The Man down into a shocking realisation. She’s the bearer of bad news and provides the only comfort for his sealed fate of loneliness: marriage. Unknowing The Man’s past, Fincken provides great humour to conjure the audience’s “we know, what you don’t know”. Her elegant delivery ties The Man to face his demons of denial within her locked bathroom.

Dressing The Rent Boy (Thomas Flynn) in his wife’s clothes, The Man stares at betrayal. The Rent Boy’s message hollas at the fierceness of sexuality and the important discovery of ego and self-identity. Knicker snapping at the sad reality, Flynn serves Circa’s purpose on a humourous plastic plate: the calling and returning of lost love.

Laughing at the irony of commuting home on the Circle line, Circa had emotionally drained my heart, unblocking the sense of hopelessness and febreezed it with a sudden sense of empathy. Circa was crafted to perfection and the script was pumped to reveal its impressive size. Mentally weeping at The Man’s desperation, I longed to play his cupid and sit next to him on that rotating lonely box….

Sitting in a restaurant on the South Bank, my best friend and I were having a heart to heart. We talked and laughed about finding the man of our dreams, personality vs looks, ideal first date, proposals, engagements, weddings, children, divorce and retirement. All we needed was the party poppers to celebrate our future and continue to support our presents of friendship and love.


Book your tickets to see Circa here. Ends 25 June.

Discover work.Theatre here

Big thanks to Tom Ratcliffe and Jenna Fincken

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