The Stag Theatre kicks off its autumn season with this adorable antipodean adventure that packs a hefty emotional punch.
Jeff is a 21-year-old football-loving lad who lives with Harry, his widower father, in 1980’s Australia. Dad and son are both single and looking for love, though while Harry is seeking a lovely lady, it’s the boys that Jeff like to score with down-under, so this hilarious intergenerational buddy drama is more a case of ‘Gay-bours’ than ‘Neighbours’. Or ‘Home And A Gay’, if you prefer. (Sorry…)
The key to this touching tale is the relationship between father and son. By the time we join the narrative Harry has already fully accepted his son’s homosexuality and loves him unconditionally – if anything, he’s overly accepting, happily walking in on Jeff’s bedroom antics and asking how his lovers take their tea… Stephen Connery-Brown is exceptionally amiable as Harry – capturing our hearts from the off with winsome wit and cheeky chat, warming them with personal sacrifice to protect his son, and then ultimately tearing them out of our chests and shattering them to pieces with a final, devastating twist.
Tim McFarland, playing Jeff, is a shining star, carrying the show with a nuanced portrait of a young gay man who has everything going for him but lacks the self-belief to quite fulfil his potential. The scene between him and Greg (Rory Hawkins) – the boy he brings home from the bar – is transfixingly awkward and endearingly entertaining. When Dad joins them for a nightcap the resultant dynamic between Connery-Brown, McFarland, and Hawkins is a rare joyful alchemy that sets this show apart as a genuine theatrical treasure.
There’s also superb support from Annabel Pemberton as Joyce – a potential lover that Harry meets through a dating agency. Joyce’s reaction to finding gay porn in the apartment leads to a pivotal moment for Harry that’s perfectly played by both parties.
Gene David Kirk’s direction of David Stevens’ snappy script is pacey and punchy. The set is ridiculously impressive with its attention to detail and lighting by Jack Weir complements proceedings skilfully. Once again Above the Stag sets the bar for fringe theatre with lavish production values that give the West-End a run for its money.
This delicious slice of upside-down cake is thoroughly recommended. With plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and a poignant plot that keeps us guessing, The Sum Of Us is a precious gem that you really don’t want to miss.
GT gives The Sum of Us 5/5
The Sum Of Us runs at Above The Stag Theatre until 4 October. For full details see abovethestag.com
Editorial: For those of you who can’t get to London there was a version with Jack Thompson, Russell Crowe, John Polson in 1994, and it is currently available to be watched on Youtube: