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Willie and Sebastian

Andy Gray, Michelle Gallagher and Grant Stott in Willie and Sebastian. Photo: Steve Ullathorne Andy Gray, Michelle Gallagher and Grant Stott in Willie and Sebastian. Photo: Steve Ullathorne
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The 1960s and 1970s gave us a rogue’s gallery of dodgy arty types who outraged the Establishment but were loved for it because they were well-bred products of that selfsame Establishment. Writer William Donaldson and artist Sebastian Horsley, utter scoundrels both, were typical examples, being scions of wealthy families who squandered their inheritances while entrancing their public. All very rock’n’roll, really.

And here we meet the pair, nearing the ends of their lives, clashing their drug-addled egos in a mighty spat over Sebastian’s swiping away of Donaldson’s glamour-model girlfriend Rachel. Ever witty, biting, scatological, Donaldson bemoans his solitude, while Sebastian crows over trouncing his old mate. Bemused, Rachel wonders whether she really needs to fend for herself as she observes her beaus wondering whether they’ll find more suitable solace in a shared crack pipe.

This would be a cracking show if only for the cast’s remarkable resemblance to their real-life counterparts. Grant Stott is darkly conniving as the foppish yet hard-as-nails Sebastian, while Michelle Gallagher reveals the steely determination behind the outwardly party-girl Rachel. What makes this unmissable is Andy Gray’s tour de force performance as Donaldson – veering from emotional explosion to the subtlest of nuances, he wins us over to Donaldson’s louche outlook on life and love.

Written by Rab C Nesbitt creator Ian Pattison, the script sparkles with one-liners and is a gift to director Sam Kane, who ensures the pace of comedy never dips, yet always  keeps us aware that under the bawdy grotesqueness of the arty set behaving badly lies a carefully crafted drama of an intimately human love triangle.

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Unmissable comic romp through a love triangle in Soho’s arty set
Nick Awde
Nick Awde is the co-editor of The Stage’s international section and general secretary of the new UK Centre of the International Theatre Institute