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ATS Theatre Presents

Seduction: An Erotic Comedy


Photo credit: Derek Drescher

Stanley Eldridge as the Rent Boy lying down and Simon Boughey as the Movie Producer leaning over


by Jack Heifner

Directed by Peter Bull

Above the Stag Theatre

18 Jan- 20 Feb 2011





A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!


On the surface, it might appear that this adaptation of La Ronde is concerned only with the transient pleasures of casual sex between men who have nothing in common other than their desire for instant gratification or what they can gain materially by their ability to supply it. However, like Schnitzler's original, this play is engaged in a deeper, more thoughtful questioning of human sexual relationships, perhaps the most fetishised of all social interactions and therefore the most difficult to rationalise.

Just as in La Ronde, a series of sexual encounters between people from different social classes are played out on stage in Seduction, except rather than the merry-go-round beginning with the soldier and the prostitute and so on, we have a series of exclusively homoerotic scenes beginning with 'The Rent Boy and The Sailor...The Sailor and The Handyman... The Handyman and The Student...' and so on in Heifner's play, allowing us to observe how each sexual encounter fans the flames of desire for ever more reckless and selfish indulgence. While Heifner is aware of the melancholy in Schnitzler's depiction of fin-de-siècle Vienna and draws a parallel between the syphilis epidemic that occurred then and the AIDS crisis of our own time, he also celebrates the exuberance of illicit love, noting that 'The absorption of the individual in the pleasures of the moment is an instinctive effort to escape the certainty of death'. However, Heifner is careful to note in the programme that he does not condone the latest fashion for 'Backrooms, bare backing and drugs' among a new generation of gay men too young to remember the 80s who no longer practice safe sex, relying on the drugs which can effectively manage AIDS. Although the cast play the series of characters with verve and charm, sometimes to great comic effect, he says 'The carelessness of the characters is intentional and in no way means that I condone such behaviour'.

I remember the 80s very well, having marched against Clause 28 and I'm delighted that a new generation emerged relatively unscathed by the horrible equations made between sex and death in the government AIDS campaign. I think what has changed is not the types of behaviour, but the comradeship born from political struggle against oppression, so tangible in the 80s but absent today. What I liked most about this play was its disruption of simplistic stereotypes. The rapacious Student (Michael Morrison) was manipulating the timid Professor (Royce Ullah) who's creepy Businessman (Simon Boughey) partner of five years insisted on periods of friendship so that he could pretend each sexual encounter they had was new, while he paradoxically insisted on complete fidelity from the Professor believing he always did what he was told. Even when the Businessman was apparently manipulating the Teenager (Stanley Eldridge) in a rather tawdry scene where he seduces a boy with wine and cake, the Teenager has a shopping list of items in mind which he is determined that the Businessman or perhaps The Writer (Michael Morrison) will fill. Stewart Dunseith was compelling, first as the lonely Handyman looking for a more meaningful exchange with the now rapacious Sailor (Royce Ullah) and then as The Actor, a marvellously camp performance, funny and touching even while he played the wiley manipulator of the Movie Producer (Simon Boughey). The actors were all accomplished and attractive, which helped as the action demanded they get in and out of their clothes and the clinch quite frequently. This was appreciated by the full house Above the Stag, including Sue Pollard in the front row who made rather too many vocal interjections. There is an emotionally uplifting tableau at the end which recalls La Ronde and reposes the central theme of the play, our human need to journey out of ourselves to encounter another, although as this play illustrates, we're seldom looking for the same things at the same time.

It was announced that this popular little theatre is to move to a bigger venue after this production. Part of the charm of shows here is in the friendly venue, so although I'm sure the atmosphere will follow the team to their next home, this is a last chance to see this talented company perform an entertaining and thought provoking play Above the Stag.

Photo credit: Derek Drescher

Left to right: Michael Morrison (Student/Writer), Stewart Dunseith (Handyman/Actor), Simon Boughey Businessman/Movie Producer), Royce Ullah (Sailor/Professor) and Stanley Eldridge (Rent Boy/Teenager 



Above the Stag Theatre

15 Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DD

Tues - Sat 7.30pm, Sun 6pm

Tickets: £12 first week, £14 from 25th Jan

Box Office: 020 8932 4747





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