It’s always nice to see important historical events brought to life on stage but it can be hard to get the balance right between demonstrating your point and over loading the audience with information that they don’t particularly want to know.
A Hard Rain is the first drama by regular Above The Stag writers Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper. Set in New York 1969 in the days leading up to the Stonewall riots, this show is very much political but instead of focusing on the riots themselves, we see the events that unfolded in the days leading up to them for one group of New York teens.
Nigel Barber plays the sleazy underground bar owner, Frank, whose only way to keep his gay nightclub open is to bribe the police so they turn a blind eye. His seedy goings on with 16 year old street kid Jimmy (James El-Sharawy) portrays the gay stereotype of old men taking advantage of young boys but also shows a kind, caring side of his wanting to be a father figure to him.
Cross dresser Ruby (played by Michael Edwards) spent a year fighting in Vietnam but now runs carefree around Greenwich Village in high heels, angry about the unaccepting world he lives in. Cracks appear in his relationship with successful Wall Street banker Josh (played by Oliver Lynes) when the intolerance for gay people above ground comes between them. Before long, the pressures of repression get too much and cause an outright attack on the police by the gay community.
Above The Stag is a cosy fringe theatre which recently relocated to the heart of Vauxhalls gay community. Priding themselves on producing gay themed productions, it seems fitting that a show like this should be staged there. The theatre is a representation of how even in today’s society, there is a necessity for this type of place to exist, much like the underground bars of the 1960’s (although obviously society has progressed much further in acceptance since then).
A Hard Rain is well performed, well staged and laced with humour that perfectly balances out the serious subject matter, A Hard Rain is a fun night out that inadvertently teaches you about one of the most important gay rights movement this century has seen.
Go see it at Above The Stag until 30th March.
Reviewed by West End Wilma