Tales from a Golden Age is a series of monologues inspired by past and future Golden Age Theatre Company productions. From today’s big headlines of Brexit and Black Lives Matter to Nazi concentration camps and Richard III, writer and director Ian Dixon Potter doesn’t shy away from ambitious topics that require a sensitive and skilful hand for their full impact to be conveyed.
Potter’s newest monologue, A Strange Romance, a shortened adaptation of his play Boy Stroke Girl, delves into a topic even more personal than those mentioned above. The love story of Peter, a cis-man, and the sexually ambiguous Blue, is an intimate exploration of love beyond gender labels.
When we first meet Peter, played by Tom Everatt, he is bent over the engine of a classic car, tinkering away. Dressed in blue overalls, a spanner by his side, he is the embodiment of working-class masculinity. This first impression stands in perfect juxtaposition to how we see Peter when he starts talking about how he and Blue first met. We, the audience, are already being called upon not to judge a person at face value, but to get to know them outside of how they present themselves.
Having garnered a table to himself at the back of a busy café, Peter has his headphones in and is reading a sci-fi paperback, a collection of Phillip K. Dick’s short stories. When Blue enters, the café is already packed. Catching Peter’s eye, they sit down at his table and discover they have a lot of interests in common. Soon they decide to make a date to see the Director’s Cut of Blade Runner at the BFI.
Potter handles this strange romance in a clear and sometimes humorous way. However, Peter and Blue’s relationship is handled in a very stereotypically heterosexual way: get together, meet the friends, meet the parents. There is noconsideration of the fact that some people in Peter’s life, such as his parents and friends, might not approve of Blue or their relationship. While it is believable that Peter might be naïve at the start, Blue surely isn’t.
As their relationship continues, Peter remains intrigued by Blue’s androgyny, but starts detaching himself from his need to know whether they are male or female.
Everatt plays this journey with an air of bright-eyed self-discovery. As Peter’s love for Blue grows, so does his own sense of self and the solidity of himself as an individual, as well as with Blue as a couple. Everatt carries Peter’s growth with enthusiasm. However, with his parents’ and friends’ disapproval of their relationship growing, I would have liked to have seen a darker side to Peter.
The monologue is kept at very much the same joyous, at times inquisitive, pace throughout and some anger or disgust from Everatt in response to Blue being scrutinized and threatened would have added layers to the story and Peter’s character.
Potter intends to have five of his monologues performed at The White Bear Theatre from 29 September to 3 October and I really hope A Strange Romance will be among them. I believe setting it on a stage will provide more space to explore the topic of gender and the realisations faced by the individual characters brought on by the catalyst that is Blue and Peter’s relationship.
A Strange Romance is available on the Golden Age Theatre YouTube channel. For more information, see Golden Age Theatre’s website.