Review: Cry Havoc, Park Theatre
PUBLISHED: 11:21 01 April 2019
Hompophobic brutality and post-colonial tension puts a gay relationship between an Egyptian and a British man under strain
There was an outbreak of unanimity on BBC’s Question Time on the eve of this performance, as panel members supported teaching young children about LGBT+ relationships.
In contrast, the next morning there were headlines announcing Brunei’s introduction of death by stoning for gay sex.
In Egypt, Nicholas and Mohammed (superbly played by Marc Antolin and James El-Sharawy) are about to have a relationship crisis that examines the basics of identity, loyalty and the duty to challenge prejudice.
Mohammed has just endured a gruesome few days of police hospitality (a routine sweep of homosexuals, dissidents, cartoonists and other undesirables) and has returned home bruised, bloodied and confused.
His partner Nicholas is shocked, wants to do something, but feels powerless: “You’re not useless, you’re British” says Mo. In a taste of what is to come, Nicholas offers comfort but comes up against an angry Mohammed, a searing indictment of colonialism and an assertion of his belief in God.
Nicholas, trying to get a visa for him to travel to England, goes to the British embassy and meets the extraordinary Mrs Nevers (a wonderfully eccentric performance by Karren Winchester).
Her interviewing technique is left-field and seemingly random but she uncovers much that even Nicholas doesn’t really know about himself.
The relationship between the lovers deteriorates as details about the brutality of Mohammed’s detention emerge.
Perhaps in shock, perhaps questioning the very foundation of their relationship, he starts to distance himself then launches scathing attacks on Nicholas, his commitment and motivation. Even if the visa arrives, should he stay and challenge the regime?
Tom Coash’s dialogue is naturalistic and pacey, allowing the narrative to rush along – perhaps a tad too fast for a play that is only 75 minutes long. Although an opportunity has been missed to more deeply explore post-colonial attitudes and the tensions between religious observance and a modern secular world, Cry Havoc is worthwhile and fine theatre.