Tuesday, 31 May 2016

'Kenny Morgan' Arcola Theatre *****

Some people have a lot of skeletons in their closet; especially with regards to keeping their sexuality a secret due to the fact that homosexuality was an illegal act prior to 1967, but an insight into the bumpy relationship between actor, Kenneth “Kenny” Morgan and playwright, Terence Rattigan could help us understand how hard it is to supress your sexuality and emotions. The Arcola Theatre’s production of, Mike Poulton’s new play, ‘Kenny Morgan’ was a momentous portrayal of someone who is on the verge of suicide as he can’t live with himself anymore, not to mention the executions were accomplished.

‘Kenny Morgan’ is set in a Camden Town boarding house in 1949 where we’re habituated with actor, Kenny Morgan who craves attention for some reason is rescued from two other residents in the boarding house, Mrs Simpson (Marlene Sidaway) and Dafydd Lloyd (Matthew Bulgo) as he’s decided to gas himself as he is in a suicidal frame of mind.  Thankfully, the gas meter has run out of money so his plan is unsuccessful and with a call to the GP, Mr Ritter (George Irving) he then looks through Kenny’s contact book and the first contact he sees is the illustrious playwright, Terence Rattigan; as such Mr Ritter calls the man’s home phone for him to visit. However, Kenny’s current boyfriend, Alec Lennox isn’t too impressed with Kenny’s behaviour as he is really in love with Kenny and due to Kenny’s attempt to kill himself, Alec is upset by it, yet, he grows jealous when Terence Rattigan makes an appearance.  Over the course of the performance, Kenny and Alec’s relationship is pushed to its limits as Alec is struggling to find acting work and he has been offered a meeting for a small part in a film in Birmingham, which he isn’t actually interested in pursuing, but Kenny’s attitude is making Alec’s decision a little easier.  In addition to this, the tension between Kenny and Alec accentuates where a celebration of a birthday causes an argument to occur; which in turn upsets both the men and after every confrontation, Alec resorts to venturing off to the pub and drinking heavily. Kenny who is in a pretty bad way calls Terence Rattigan for a shoulder to cry on and as usual, he is obliging and his neighbour, Dafydd comes to see how Kenny is getting on and is shocked when Terence enters the bedsit. It appears that Dafydd is a fan of Terence’s work and as an appreciation he invites Dafydd to see his latest play. Kenny’s partner, Alec brings his friend, Norma Hastings (Lowenna Melrose) into their bedsit, but as usual Kenny is annoying Alec and asks if he can stay with Norma for some time, understandably, Kenny becomes emotional by this and his suicidal thoughts are more prominent. Throughout this, Mr Ritter honestly says to Kenny that he is being childish because of his lacklustre demeanour and informs him of what happened to him in his homeland in order for Kenny to see that there are people in a worse off state than his dwindling relationship. At the finale, Alec comes back to the bedsit but with some bad news for Kenny where he states that their relationship is over and that he’ll be moving up to Birmingham for the film role, due to this, Kenny finally and sorrowfully goes through his suicide attempt and ends his life once and for all. Poulton’s narrative is cracking as we’re taken on a moving portrayal of Kenny’s emotional journey where his relationship with Alec has taken a tumble for the worse because of his attention seeking behaviour and it does hit home that even if you think your problems are really awful that there are other people who have tougher problems. 

One found the perofrmances by the company of, ‘Kenny Morgan’ to be mind-blowing as they convey the pureness of the characters’ own story i.e. Dafydd’s loneliness and Mr Ritter’s personal traumas as well as Kenny and Alec’s strenuous relationship.  Paul Keating is phenomenal as central protagonist, Kenny Morgan; especially when we see how emotional he actually is when it comes to Alec as this is the person he is in love with but due to the fact that he is an attention hogger he wants everyone to be around him conforting hem. Yet, I did like how his energy infused through his relationship with Terence Rattigan. Pierro Niel-Mee is transcendent as Kenny’s long suffering boyfriend, Alec; mainly when you can see the exasperation by Kenny’s unpleasant behaviour and this is only helping him become an alcoholic and to become distant when it comes to Kenny’s sexual advances, furthermore, when he decides to tell Kenny that their relationship is at an end it is a moving moment indeed as the two men are near to crying. Simon Dutton is supreme as the famous playwright, Terence Rattigan; essentially when he comes into the bedsit, you can see that there is an awkward tension that increases in time as Alec really dislikes him as he is also causing the relationship between Kenny and Alec to finish which for me is disgraceful, plus, as with people with money he comes across too aloof. 

Lucy Bailey’s direction is overwhelmingly good here as she has been able to transport us into an environment that is rather anxious as Kenny is the main focus of a man who is going through a turbulent time in his life and with the realisation that his sexuality is frowned upon shows us that being a member of the LGBT community in the 1940’s was not exactly a pleasant experience whatsoever and fundamentally bleak.  Robert Innes Hopkins’ design is out of this world as he has been able to grasp the dreariness of the Camden Town bedsit which in turn has allowed us to understand that the set itself has an underlying sadness within it such as the scenic art and construction through to the obscure presence of Jack Knowles’ amazing lighting design. Overall, the experience of, ‘Kenny Morgan; to be monumental, moving and excellent piece of theatre and from the Arcola Theatre which has become an admired place of mine.

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