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A Guide for the Homesick review at Trafalgar Studios, London – ‘lacks spark and heart’

Clifford Samuel and Douglas Booth in A Guide for the Homesick at Trafalgar Studios, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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A Guide for the Homesick is yet another one of those 80-minute, one-act American two-handers. You know the formula: tightly written, clinically directed and decently acted, but often with a great, gaping hole where their heart should be.

Acclaimed across the Atlantic when it premiered in Boston last year, the play is staged with complete competence here, but there’s just not a lot that’s interesting about it formally, thematically or dramatically.

Douglas Booth and Clifford Samuel play Jeremy and Teddy, two gay American strangers in an Amsterdam hotel room bearing burdens of betrayal. Jeremy has just flown in from Kampala, where a Ugandan friend faces persecution at the hands of a violently homophobic fervour. Teddy is awaiting the return of his straight, bi-polar pal, who he may or may not be desperately in love with, and who may or may not have killed himself.

They talk, they argue, they slip into revelatory flashbacks. It’s all neatly structured, and Jonathan O’Boyle’s unshowy production proceeds with perfect pace on Jason Denvir’s anonymous hotel room set.

After a shaky start, both Booth and Samuel grow into their performances – Booth is effete and anxious and constantly fiddling with his glasses, while Samuel sturdy and robust.

But there’s no spark here. No fire. A Guide for the Homesick is fine. It’s decent. It’s serviceable and inoffensive, predictable and ultimately forgettable. Plays like this come and go with relentless regularity. One wishes for something bigger, bolder and braver.

 

Actor Clifford Samuel: ‘There’s no point taking the easy road – I’d get bored so quickly’

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Verdict
Serviceable production of Ken Urban’s over familiar one-act, American two-hander
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