EDINBURGH 2010: BROADWAY WORLD REVIEWS: The Gay Geese (C Central)
Writer/director Anna Forsyth makes her Fringe debut with The Gay Geese, and her inexperience is tangible. With paper-thin characters, cliche-ridden dialogue ('I just want to be me', 'it's not natural') and a cast that falls into shaking histrionics every time the narrative throws up something interesting, this tale of coming out and coming of age is outdated and undernourished.
Teenager Matt is gay, coming out to his best friend Sam after a night spent drinking in the park. Sam reacts badly - there's that cliche-ridden dialogue - falling into the juddering, stunned silence that is every gay teenager's nightmare ideal of what coming out would be like. Then, because the play isn't trite enough, Forsyth throws in another soap opera plot point: Sam's father Steve is gay too, you see, and left Sam's mother after an afternoon romp with Adam, a friend from work. You can figure out the witless naming pun yourself, surely? Whenever Sam looks at Matt, he confesses, in a way that no teenage boy ever would, he just sees his Dad.
If more care had been taken to make sure the characters were interesting - and that they actually had something to say - the play might not have had to rely on messy confrontations and a laboured, convoluted gag scene concerning a text message sent to the wrong person. Quite why Sam couldn't have texted his Dad back to let him know he'd sent the message to the wrong person is never explained, either, and followed by another hackneyed scene in which the teenager confronts his father. Accusations are thrown but never expounded upon, with Miles Garratt putting in a wooden turn as Sam's father, whose attitude towards his own sexuality seems to come not only from another generation, but from another time period altogether.
Even the occasional stab at humour is clunky, stilted, delivered by a cast that seems unenthusiastic at best. Anna Connolly is perhaps the best of a bad bunch, putting in a remarkably mature performance as Sam's mother, but her talent is under-utilised, and she's relegated to dragging out unnecessary set dressing as the play reaches the mid-way point. Euan Forsyth and Ross Harvey put in serviceable turns as Sam and Matt - they say all the right words, at least - but there's so little for them to work with that it's difficult to evaluate their abilities.
It's been a good year for theatre with LGBT themes at the fringe - Mysterious Skin at Gilded Balloon, the sublime Shadow Boxing at C Soco - and, as far as subject matter goes, there was a lot for this play to work with. However, even ten, fifteen years ago, this juvenile, uninspiring play would have been dated, and in comparison with the competition it just doesn't make the grade.