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BWW Review: 46 BEACON, Trafalgar Studios

Bill Rosenfield's play transfers to Trafalgar Studios, with Alexander Lass at the helm, following a short Hope Theatre run. His tale of identity, pride and becoming is warm and viciously funny.

Set in the Seventies in a Boston in full queer bloom, the play sees a night that acts as a turning point in the lives of Alan (Oliver Coopersmith), an American 16-year-old boy, and Robert (Jay Taylor), an older British actor. The two come to terms with what it means to be yourself and the inevitable baggage everyone carries.

Taylor is disarmingly earnest in his portrayal. His clever and vaguely snide remarks balance Coopersmith's awkwardness around desire, and lend dynamic energy to the already outstanding script.

Coopersmith's depiction of Alan's youth is thorough, particularly the underlying self-doubt and uncertainty of teenage years. His exchanges with Taylor are impassioned and sincere, and both actors feed off each other's energy: as Alan exposes Robert's faults, puncturing his self-assurance and cockiness, the latter manages to break through the boy's walls and give him a life-changing experience.

The direction is finely tuned, preserving the authenticity of Rosenfield's semi-autobiographical script, and Ruth Hall's period design is equally grounded. The room in the theatrical hotel at No.46 Beacon Street is accurate and convincing, and the addition of details like vinyls and bottles to a rather impersonal-looking hotel bedroom make it look like a real-life space.

The comparison of two greatly dissimilar characters draws attention to how perception has enormous power over identity and a person's individuality. Alan surrendering his expectations and meeting Robert with an open heart in an honest step towards feeling accepted is measured with Robert's experience of being gay, creating an ever-changing force in the play.

Their conversations, stemming from different stages of life and distinct levels of maturity, spark a reflection on how progress has shaped what it means to be queer, how far gay rights have come, how long the path still is, and most of all how one single night can change your whole life.

46 Beacon runs at Trafalgar Studios until 29 April.

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