Melbourne Fringe doesn’t always see a lot of touring productions, and so All I See Is You stood out on a glance through the guide. This two-hander premiered in England in 2018, and is billed as “A rollercoaster love story inspired by queer life 50 years ago”. It won awards in England and Ireland for Katherine Smith’s writing, the production, and the performances.
We can take confidence from these awards as the Melbourne season has retained Ciarán Griffiths (TV’s Shameless) and Christian Edwards from previous runs. The work showed the benefit of performers immersed in their characters. A bare stage focused our attention on the quality of the performances and writing. These nimble players didn’t need stage trickery, showing that they could change into minor characters with just a shift in tone or accent.
It’s 1960s London, but before Westminster decriminalised homosexuality in 1967. Cheeky young chappie Bobby (Griffiths) works in Woolworths during the week, but is more excited about assisting in the music section on Saturdays. More posh and reserved, also older and more experienced, Ralph (Edwards) is looking to go to university and become a teacher.
When the pair find that a public toilet is frustratingly inadequate, Bobby suggests a trip to Ralph’s family home. Ralph agrees anxiously as it’s risky for a gay man to act on his desires. Being outed might mean something even worse than lost career opportunities.
As the saying goes, true love never runs smooth, certainly not in these times. By showing us how the law sought to keep these men from their community, even just “the laffs and banter” as Bobby said, without preaching at us, the show demonstrated how repressive England was in the 1960s.
It was easy to forget that we were watching a play, as the work allowed us feel the frustration of Bobby and Ralph, stuck between hiding their love, or suffering the indignities and hostility of the justice system. I wonder if a tour of this work around Australia a few years ago could have showed how ridiculous it is to punish people for their sexuality, as well as saving us 100 million dollars spent on the same-sex marriage referendum.
For many, I suspect that the quality of All I See Is You will make it a Melbourne Fringe highlight to linger in the memory for some time.
All I See Is You
The Stables – Meat Market, 5 Blackwood Street, North Melburne
Performance: Tuesday 24 September 2019 – 7.00pm
Season continues to 28 September 2019
Information and Bookings: www.melbournefringe.com.au
Image: Christian Edwards and Ciarán Griffiths in All I See Is You – photo by Ray Jefferson (Bolton Camera Club)
Review: Jason Whyte