One of the great achievements of outgoing artistic director Dominic Cooke’s regime at the Royal Court has been his loyalty to some of the young writers that have been developed by the venue’s Young Writers Programme. Among the beneficiaries has been EV Crowe, who made her debut in 2010 with the award-winning Kin.
Susannah Wise (Lisa) and Daniel Mays (Jamie) in Hero at Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Her new play is, as its title suggests, about a very contemporary kind of courage. Danny, a primary school teacher, is gay and wants to tell the kids at school. His colleague, Jamie, who is straight, thinks this is a very bad idea. And Joe, Danny’s partner, agrees with Jamie - the couple are applying to adopt a child so rocking the boat is not a good idea.
You can’t fault either the sexual politics or the writing of this compelling and thrilling drama. The plotting is excellent and Crowe has chosen a theatre form that allows us to see the story from two distinct angles - the first act from Danny’s point of view and the second act from Jamie and his partner Lisa’s. This points up the similarities and contrasts between the two couples.
The play is both emotionally convincing and highly entertaining. Although the subject matter is concerned with education in the widest sense, Crowe is never didactic or preachy. Instead she questions not only the roots of homophobic prejudice but also our need for heroic role models. All this is quietly inspiring.
Jeremy Herrin’s sympathetic production has a versatile set by Mike Britton, an atmospheric soundscape and strong performances from all four actors. Liam Garrigan’s Danny has a glow of charisma which contrasts well with Daniel Mays’ darker, wilder, much more troubled Jamie. Likewise, both Tim Steed (Joe) and Susannah Wise (Lisa) provide solid support. A relevant and passionately felt new play.