Review: Candy, King's Head Theatre

Strangely, this play is at its strongest during the times when it’s completely off topic. Despite focusing on the experiences of a young man falling in love with the drag persona of one of this friends (not the friend, just the drag persona) the most emotive and convincing section focuses on his experiences following the death of a family member, in which he learns that her life was far more vibrant and complex than he was ever able to see during her life. Sadly, this depth and development does not extend throughout. Candy is less than an hour long, and perhaps suffers a little for this. It grapples with how a collection of men perceive themselves and one another, and how they exist and move through the world. The topics under scrutiny are delicate ones, and could perhaps benefit from a more varied approach to the structure. 

This doesn’t reflect a lack of interest: Mike Waller is confident and engaging on stage, although the first few minutes of Tim Fraser’s script don’t quite ring true. It does, however, reflect the limitations wrought by staging only one of the narrators of a story that wraps so many more people into its folds. While isolating Will’s side of the story may reflect something of his isolation or confusion, a wider range of voices would likely allow for a more varied and developed discussion of these topics 

Perhaps it’s telling that, for all of Will’s declarations of love for ‘Candy’, and the promise that they have an extended conversation about their lives and interests, we never hear a word of this. It’s brushed over, relegated to the past tense before it’s even begun. We know that he’s far from a trustworthy narrator: there are multiple incidences in which one chain of events is recounted to us, before he doubles back on himself and admits that little or none of it actually happened. Perhaps I’m cynical, but it’s hard to forget that precedence just as soon as it would work against the foundations of his story.

Although they serve their purpose from time to time, the insistence on keeping three chairs a microphone on a small stage surrounded by audience on three sides definitely leaves the space feeling somewhat chaotic, as well as at times limiting Waller’s ability to fully use the space.

Candy has some frustratingly strong moments. In these, its single actor shines and its complex emotional arcs start to come into place. In between these moments, however, there’s not a lot of evidence of the nuance one would hope to see in a play focusing so heavily on gender and our perceptions of both it, and of one another. 

Candy is played the King’s Head Theatre until 20 January. For more information, visit the King’s Head Theatre website.