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Extra Virgin review at Above the Stag, London – ‘absorbing, but slight’

James Farley and Alexander Hulme in Extra Virgin at Above the Stag, London. Photo: PBG Studios
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This short play by Howard Walters was first performed at the original Above the Stag venue in 2011 as part of a double bill with Jack Heifner’s Boys’ Play.

Director and producer Peter Bull revisits the piece here granting it a solo spot making for a brief, if dramatic evening. Extra Virgin concerns the post-coital chat of two gay men who have hooked up on Grindr. Sexually they seem a perfect match, especially when Noah admits a fondness for Irish boys and Elliot says he enjoys the attentions of a twink.

Walters’ play toys artfully with the idea of sexual stereotypes and hero worship until the tone changes and a game of cat and mouse ensues. It doesn’t ever feel like a complex text but actors James Farley as Noah and Alexander Hulme as Elliot negotiate each of the characters’ journey with honesty and immediacy.

Farley brings a boyish charm to Noah that gradually intensifies as his history unfolds and he wheedles the truth out of Elliot. In turn, there is a vulnerability to Hulme’s brusque Elliot long before we hear his backstory.

Bull, directing his first play since establishing the new venue, gives the play breathing space to allow the story to unfold naturally. The problem is that no matter how smart Andrew Beckett’s realistic set design is nor how fine the  performances are, this is a sketch masquerading as a one-act play.

 

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Verdict
Absorbing gay drama with elements of a thriller that feels slight and unfinished
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