Looking for John review at Assembly Hall, Edinburgh – ‘uninspiring and conservatively staged’

Tony Timberlake in Looking for John, Photo: Graeme Braidwood Tony Timberlake in Looking for John, Photo: Graeme Braidwood
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The John we are looking for is John Curry OBE, the figure skater who became famous as Olympic and World Champion in 1976, and who then pursued a short, idiosyncratic stage career blending skating and ballet, before dying – age 44 – of AIDS in 1991.

This is clearly something of a personal journey for writer-performer Tony Timberlake. He watched Curry win gold as a closeted gay teenager, and exudes an earnest, passionate fascination with the skater’s life and work. He’s done his research, too. Read the books. Done the interviews. Watched the Youtube clips.

But what Timberlake can’t do is spin his obsession into a compelling stage show. Looking For John boils down to a 60-minute lecture about Curry’s life, interspersed with Timberlake’s own memories and experiences researching Curry, and laced with a few impressions and projected videos.

Timberlake singularly fails to make obvious the wider resonance of Curry’s troubled life; all he does is wrap it around his own, and expect the audience to care. What could have been a moving parable of fighting for personal expression, of coping with depression, and of facing up to homophobic prejudice, is instead an uninspiring, conservatively staged passion project.

An uninspired passion project about ice-skating icon and impressario John Curry