Away From Home @ The Lowry, Salford, 30 Jan
Kudos to any actor who begins a play walking on stage stark naked with nothing but a hastily grabbed towel. Such is the entrance of solo performer Rob Ward (who is also co-writer of Away From Home with Martin Jameson); and he goes about the entire production with the same conviction. And with a few more clothes on.
Away From Home is a complex love story about the dysfunctional relationship between gay escort and football mega-fan Kyle (Ward), and the in-the-closet gay premiership player who hires him – and who also happens to play for Kyle's team’s biggest rivals. The script is witty and fast-paced with some absolute gems of one-liners, as well as a couple of truly poignant, raw moments. Ward does an incredible job of taking on multiple characters, sometimes switching between two or even three participants in one conversation. The smallest changes of voice, tone and body language differentiate the roles so well that at no point – even in the middle of a drunken yelling match – are the audience confused as to who’s speaking. It’s an impressive show of acting talent from start to finish.
The play tackles a big and pretty topical issue – homophobia in football – but it does so in a way that’s by no means one-dimensional, or overly moralistic. Kyle and the characters around him are flawed and confused, often selfish or insensitive, and really, truly, genuinely believable. This isn’t just a play to make a point (although it makes several): it’s also a very human story with identifiable characters, making for great onstage drama.
At just over an hour, it’s a big story in terms of both its running time and the number of characters, locations and plot twists or features that take place – but it passes without feeling rushed or crammed. It’s testament to Jameson’s direction that a single stage set, minimal description and some clever actions and positioning can switch the story from one location to another – as easily as Ward alters characters with as little as a slumped posture or the widening of his eyes. [Conori Bell-Bhuiyan]