Blowing Whistles @ Leicester Square Theatre, London

cast list
Paul Keating
Stuart Laing
Daniel Finn

directed by
Pete Nettell

Traditionally, a gift of tin or aluminium celebrates 10 years of domestic bliss. For Nigel and Jamie, a decade is more fittingly marked by a threesome.

But the third man or boy, being a 17-year-old chap named Mark proves too attractive a proposition. The resultant infidelities, though certainly nothing new, reveal something sinister lurking at the kernel of their relationship.

Whilst Matthew Todd’s Blowing Whistles – which premiered at the Croydon Warehouse in 2005 and subsequently played at the Sound Theatre – seeks to explain its characters’ behaviour in psychological terms, the homogeny of these narratives offers a commentary on attraction. Here, sex is an inward act of ideological violence the repetition of childhood trauma and social oppression. Nigel, Jamie and Mark all refer to pivotal moments in the past where their sexuality has resulted in rejection and isolation; nonetheless, each risks inflicting such pains on those around them in the pursuit of satisfaction.

There is a sense that these characters will never settle down that they are doomed to wander the Earth alone. There is a tension between notions of civilisation and nature: a desire to restrain animal instincts mingling with resentment at the loss of autonomy. The trio desperately wish to renounce their individuality but cannot let go. There are numerous glances in this direction, but most significant is the portrayal of love itself. This is presented as a need for acceptance and assimilation, but alliance is fragile and passing the price of unity being fracture. Love is distinct to sex, which is merely masturbating with a partner.

This is dark territory, but pathos and comedy make happy bedfellows. The characters are keenly observed and believable; their dialogue fluid, their wit sharp. There is something of a celebratory air, consolidated by the lusty sex scenes that all moral ambiguity aside are raw, passionate, and honest. The cast may is small, but it delivers an enormous performance.

Some may consider the interrelatedness of promiscuity, infidelity and alienation a touch uncomfortable. There is the suggestion, albeit indirect, that homosexuals are complicit in their marginalisation that the pursuit of equality and inclusion only reaffirms difference. The double-entendre evident in the play’s title would seem to confirm this, implying that this is somehow intrinsic to the experience. Furthermore, the use of love and sex to symbolise this paradox sullies the act aligning it with self-loathing and absorption.

But this is perhaps a confusion, the play being a study of relationships rather than same-sex relationships. Part of the problem lay in its late exposition. These themes permeate the text, but retroactive affirmation means that we digest the meal without savouring its flavours. This may erode the work’s specificity, but the richly textured writing powerfully realised by actors at the top of their game is delicious nonetheless.

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