Boasting one of the oldest pub theatres in London, the Old Red Lion in Islington reaches out to the LGBT community, but this uplifting account of the vicissitudes of a gay relationship has a universal appeal, especially as all ends happily. Although coming within the category of ‘musical’, the piece is more in the nature of a monologue set to music, sung through charmingly by Martin Neely as the older of the amorous pair – “old enough to be his father”, as he confesses, though there is nothing wrong with that. It was the norm among the Ancient Greeks.
The younger partner occasionally turns the monologue into a dialogue, and duets lyrically with his mentor. But Gareth Bretherton’s main role is to play the piano accompaniment throughout, and at this he is most accomplished. As the music has to carry along the story told by the actor, a lot of it does not particularly stand out in the way it might in a normal musical, when it is interspersed amid the main action. But there are some good tunes, fitting Stalin’s criterion of being hummable by workers and peasants. The lyrics rhyme cleverly, with surprises like traumatic and attic. And some of the lyrics are very funny, such as when the pitfalls of online dating are being described.
Despite the downside of temporary separation, this is generally a light and sunny piece, affording a sharp contrast to the drama played out later the same evening at the Old Red Lion, Portia Coughlan. There is an interval of three-quarters of an hour between the two, during which determined theatre-goers can refresh themselves at the excellent bar.