Free and Proud @ Assembly George Square Studios

A moving exploration of modern relationships, with tragedy running through its core

Review by Jon Stapley | 15 Aug 2018
  • Free and Proud

Some tragedies are slow – the long, painful unravelling of a relationship that isn’t working, despite the fact that the people in it genuinely love each other. Other tragedies are fast – the stupid randomness of a bus crash that suddenly means someone you love isn’t around any more. Free and Proud deals with both. It’s the story of Jeremy and Hakeem, who respectively are a privileged white American working a nothing job and a Nigerian immigrant studying the cutting edge of theoretical physics. Almost immediately we learn what has happened, the needless and brutal tragedy that has occurred in the middle of the larger, slower one, and from there the pair delve into the past to try to make sense of it.

It’s love on stage before you. It’s two people getting themselves in a big, stupid mess, making mistakes and discovering that they are no longer the only ones who have to live with the consequences of those mistakes. You grow to understand these men and how their flaws and virtues are inextricably linked. Hakeem is driven, but work-obsessed and a control freak. Jeremy is passionate, but selfish and prone to making short-sighted decisions. They’re not that well-suited for each other, and they absolutely adore each other.

Actors Michael Gilbert and Faaiz Mbelizi do a superb job with Charles Gershman’s script, selling the genuine tenderness of the relationship so well that when things go wrong you really feel it. You can’t help but wince at some of their decisions even while completely understanding why they have made them. No, they should not be getting married – yes, you totally get why they are. Like a good classical tragedy, Free and Proud tells you where it’s going from the outset, and it’s watching how that happens that gives the play its unique power.

Free and Proud, Assembly George Square Studios (Studio Four), 2-27 Aug, 14.55pm, £12-10

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