Review: Lord Dismiss Us, theSpace at Surgeon’s Hall

5.0

If, like me, you are a fan of all things vaguely History Boys, you too will be attracted by Lord Dismiss Us, a hilarious yet touching portrait of life in a boys’ public school in a very specific period of British history.  Adapted and directed by Taggart-creator Glenn Chandler, this is the first time Michael Campbell’s classic1967 novel has been seen onstage. The production commemorates the 50th anniversary of the partial legalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.

Weatherhill School for Boys, 1960s. Prefect Terry Carleton is in love with new fourth year Nicholas Allen. Carleton’s best friend and ex-lover Perter Naylor is jealous, but Carleton may have also caught flamboyant English master Eric Ashley’s eye. New headmaster Crabtree is enraged at Weatherhill’s state of “moral laxity” and vows to bring order by staging a “purge”, aided by his devout wife. However, she may have a thing for the Chaplain, Cyril, who has paintings of naked boys hanging in his study and seems rather more accepting of the moral laxities than the Headmaster would prefer… Thus we are drawn into a charming, thought-provoking and, sadly, still relevant tale of forbidden love and rebellion.

An enormous amount of acting talent is on show in this production. The cast of seven make Chandler’s sensitive and poignant writing sparkle. Felicity Duncan is formidable as the Headmaster’s wife, Tom Lloyd inhabits the effete Ashley with perfect delicateness and David Mullen doubles as the boorish Headmaster and the endearing Chaplain with immense skill and humour. The students are equally well-cast – Matthew McCallion as head boy John Steele bravely pursues the military career he is destined for, Jonathan Blaydon plays spurned Naylor with great emotional depth and Joe Bence shines as Carleton’s cheeky, manipulative love interest, Nicky.

But it is Joshua Oakes-Rogers as the protagonist who truly stands out. In his mesmerising performance as Carleton, equally hilarious, nuanced and heart-wrenching, he is the play’s heart. His poignant dreams of leaving Weatherhill to live openly as a gay man, become a writer and love Allen forever are narrated with an awkward grace (the
oxymoron fits). Lord Dismiss Us has it all – excellent performances, clever staging, thoughtful direction and a good story exploring an important subject. I highly recommend this gem of a play.

Lord Dismiss Us is playing theSpace at Surgeon’s Hall until August 26th. For more information and tickets, see
https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/lord-dismiss-us.