A Hard Rain

3
Above the Stag Theatre
By Orlando - 2nd Mar 2014
A Hard Rain review - photo Derek Drescher
Stephanie Willson (Angie) & Michael Edwards (Ruby)
Photo credit: Derek Drescher

Set just before the 1969 Stonewall riots, A Hard Rain by Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper is a reminder of the censorship, bigotry and isolation of a corrupt and ignorant society. In Frank’s bar, hidden away somewhere in the Village of New York. Ruby (Michael Edwards), a transvestite ex Vietnam vet and Josh (Oliver Lynes), a very successful and white middle class lawyer, satisfy their passions with regular meetings and sexual encounters in the dark shadows on the edge of society. Miss Jimmy (James El-Sharawy) stumbles in and becomes a part of their camp existence ably and maternally looked over by Angie (Stephanie Willson), a no nonsense mother-of-one bar manager and confidante.

All the rather obvious complications follow along with Frank (Nigel Barber) being a drug – perhaps – dealer and deeply involved with the mafia and payment protection to the former and to the police. Corruption on corruption, therefore, makes it really hard to care. Certainly in the over-long act one, it was difficult to care about any one character / person / situation as they all, with the exception of Angie, seemed to be reprehensible and deserving of their respective lots. Being an outcast does not necessarily afford sympathy by result. It seems to me that, not withstanding the oppression of homosexuals, these people do not ‘exist’ due to their social nature but by their aggressive personalities. The whole thing just needs to be shaped and sculptured with a little more care. At the moment the episodic scenes do not allow us to engage in any one person for any amount of time. Written more like a film or a panto with stock characters and little dramatic content… we do not get to know them. They are types!

It is all rather prosaic, and, by a consequence of that, we are not given the chance to understand the individual and be part of their world. I am afraid, even within the hands of this fine cast, with terrific performances, the story is just a little too thin. Each scene feels like a sketch rather and a building, bubbling hotpot of the socially excluded that, ultimately resulted in the Stonewall riots that were to forever change the politics of America. Indeed that change and the repercussions from that fateful night are still going on today.

A Hard Rain details a private moment in history. It just tries to do too much and attempts to weave in too many stories, thus diluting the overall affect, effect and message.

Orlando Weston


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