Taken In @ Barons Court Theatre, London

cast list
Gareth Watkins
Phil Price

directed by
Peter Kosta
Barons Court Theatre lends itself well to small cast shows. Taken In is such a show; a two-hander scripted by American John W Lowell enjoying its European premiere, reset from Stateside to London.

The story, narrated by Gareth Watkins’ urbane Marc, concerns itself with opposites attracting, about obsession and, naturally enough, stereotypes. Marc has a good job, a comfy flat and a penchant for strolls around various London cruising grounds. At one of these he finds homeless rent boy Danny (Phil Price), who offers Marc that which might reasonably be expected. But it’s not sex that interests Marc. Or is it?

As Marc narrates, his contradictions become plainer. He tells himself he’s being charitable, allowing a homeless boy to sleep in his flat, but actually he’s lonely and enjoys his new companion’s company. Not used to love, Danny curls up like the proverbial cat at Marc’s place, and the two set about creating parameters within which their relationship can operate. Marc wants to care, Danny needs caring for.

The show concerns itself with Marc’s journey toward admitting what he wants to himself. Taking its cue from the age-old fable of romance across the classes, Taken In is like a gay Pretty Woman with likeable characters. James Galloway’s efficient set is utilised as a bedroom, lounge and park – and creating a park in this famously tiny theatre will tend to stretch credulity. But for a gay fringe play to avoid full nudity, as Taken In does, is refreshing. The audience is left to concentrate on the courtship of these two polar opposites – one flamboyant, the other restrained – instead of examining their more intimate attractions.

Price and Watkins, as they were in last year’s Seduction, are again reliable in roles that seem to fit their personalities to a tee – Price in particular offers a charismatic stage presence – and director Peter Kosta is left with little to do by Lowell’s script and these two experienced performers.

Neither the story or script provide anything particularly new or surprising. Instead, the drama relies almost entirely on the two characters’ distinct personalities. But at its heart Taken In is really a very little story, an extended dinner party anecdote that neither preaches, shocks or draws conclusions about a broader society beyond the joined orbits of the two protagonists. Diverting entertainment.

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