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Seven Dials Playhouse

Steve: a story about modern love versus the fairytale
3.0Reviewer's Rating

The Actor’s Centre, closed for some time now, reopened its doors in a blustery February renamed and rebranded as the Seven Dials Playhouse, and the show to kick off this rebirth is Steve; a raw comedy and slice-of-life about the highs and lows of gay relationships, both romantic and platonic. Billed as “mortality, monogamy, musicals”, Gerrard’s love for musical theatre writer Stephen Sondheim is sewn throughout the show with plenty of quotes and musical winks squeezed in. The show I saw opened with a dedication of the night’s performance to Stephen Sondheim. Before I say anything else, Steve is definitely not a musical; the world of the characters is submerged in musical theatre and Broadway, and that’s all. It’s a play, a very good one, with a smooth underscore that would make for a nice alternative game of bingo (I dare you to count the number of Sondheim tunes featured!). 

The auditorium is set up like a cozy bar, complete with seating on stage for the audience to sit at (the lucky ones, I was in the raked seating), and become part of the furniture. That’s where it kicks off. The crux of the narrative is this; Steven (protagonist) is with Stephen (partner), and they have a son; Stevie. Confusing? Yes. Funny? Maybe a little. Does the name crop up again? Oh yes. Did I mention Gerrard clearly has a love for Stephen Sondheim? We watch Steve (protagonist) navigate mid-life and the challenges of it, as well as his position in the changing relationships around him and including him. It’s not exactly watching a man going through a midlife crisis, but it is watching a group of friends perhaps not coming to terms with being on the old side of ‘young’. My initial reaction is that New Yorkers are exhausting- and maybe that’s where some of the dialog went over my head. Michael Walters’ Matt is big and brash (that’s a compliment if you know New Yorkers), David Ames’ Steven feels a range of emotions and moves between them on the turn of a dime; you have to keep up. That’s not to say the show moves like a rat race; it is paced well, and  Jenna Russell’s Carrie, and Joe Aaron Reid’s Stephen balances those dynamics and grounds us. 

Some of it was confusing. Andrew Keates put the actors through their paces to achieve as much clarity as possible but I felt a little lost on occasion; the characters move and evaluate their own sense of being at such a pace that it can be hard to keep up with where their heads are at, or if they come to any sort of conclusion. But the entire cast is strong, the staging is strong. It was a thoroughly entertaining watch, I just wanted it to delve deeper and further.

  • Drama
  • Written by: Mark Gerrard
  • Directed by: Andrew Keates
  • Sound Designer/Composer: Max Pappenheim
  • Cast include: David Ames, Jenna Russell, Giles Cooper, Joe Aaron Reid, Michael Walters, Nico Conte
  • Seven Dials Playhouse
  • Until 19th March 2022
  • Time: 7.30PM

About The Author

Reviewer (London/UK)

After a career break from stage management, Nicole started writing musical theatre. Her first project, Healter Skelter The Musical (music and lyrics by Jimmy Dowd and Kevin McCann), is a gig experience-come-acid trip exploring the psychological effects of post truth. Nicole is also the book writer/co lyricist on pop musical Alter (music and co-lyrics by Nat Birch). Nicole is a librettist at Book, Music and Lyrics workshop programme and a member of Mercury Musical Developments.

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