Bacon at Finborough Theatre – Review – ★★★★★
A masterclass in acting, directing and writing in this touching, hyper-realistic and messy love story.
Sophie Swithinbank’s story is that of two 15-year-old school boys who, despite their differences, form a loving but dangerous friendship-cum-romance. The characters are so finely illustrated through the excellent writing that they feel like old friends by the end of 75 minutes. The Londonisms, and pitch-perfect playground language, show that Swithinbank is so acutely in tune with the teenagers at the heart of her story.
The play revolves around the will-they-won’t-they story of the school geek and the soon-to-be Year 10 drop-out. The power relationships that develop from Mark’s infatuation with Darren, and the blossoming reciprocation, are enthralling.
The story deals with the complexities of young, queer, masculine love, and takes sweet stories like Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing into a darker direction that hums with tension and suspense. Class and urban poverty are explored within the school setting, with real depth and no hint of pastiche.
The direction by Matthew Iliffe is astounding, with a lightning fast pace, lots of well-timed dialogue and cleverly overlapping lines. The world of Bacon is played out via the beautiful conceit of a giant see-saw which is essentially the whole set, and there’s an Es Devlin/’Kanye’-style lighting strip bringing heightened drama to key moments.
The immersive design, focused kinetic energy and twist-in-the-tale pacing is surprising for a small theatre like the Finborough. The National Theatre could learn a thing or two about packing a show full of punch and intensity from this enthralling production, all in an audience friendly 75 mins.
Last but no means least: the acting performances of Corey Montague-Sholay as shy, dog loving Mark, and William Robinson as school rude boy Darren, are outstanding. Their sensitive commitment to character, complex physical embodiments of the script, and connection with the audience is electric and uncompromising. Darren is loud, brash and macho. Mark is the polar opposite. Perfect drama ensues.
Bacon at Finborough Theatre brings them together for tender friendship and love, but ultimately puts human peril and real-life challenges at the centre of the story.