Currently taking over the stage in Park Theatre, Gently Down The Stream gives exactly what the title promises. It takes you, tenderly on a journey filled with laughter, empathy, and tears. Written by Martin Sherman and directed by Sean Mathias, both Oliver and Tony-nominated artists, one can expect high-quality play even before witnessing it come to life on the stage.
The year is 2001, in London. A gay dating app brings together Rufus, a young and eccentric lawyer who adores the past and sees it in a romantic light, full of buzz, and Beau, an older cocktail bar pianist who lived through those “romantic” times and knows, they were everything but that. What starts as a one night stand, quickly turns into a relationship. Rufus and Beau, brought up in two different eras, perceive the idea of love differently. Beau, certain and assured that all the things related to love come to a dead-end, and Rufus who just shines with joie de vivre, and doesn’t care about a thing, he just wants to be blessed with the stories of Beau’s past. Their relationship undergoes many phases, from Rufus wanting to get married, to Beau, persuading him to see other people, the story develops into something unexpected and beautiful, but saying anything more would give away its best part of the story.
Throughout the play, the actors deliver astounding performances, making the energy created on the stage highly contagious. One might be surprised only three actors are able to create such a magnetic atmosphere, putting the audience at the tip of our toes yet making us feel as if we were guests in their living room, where the play is set. Each actor colours Gently Down the Stream with a unique tone. Ben Allen in the role of Rufus brings in the buzzing energy, Harry Lawtey as Harry occupies the stage with his cynical remarks and confidence, while Jonathan Hyde as Beau balances everything with his calmness and wisdom.
The staging is an intimate ambiance, and forces the viewer to fully commit to the events unfolding on stage. What also helps to set the atmosphere of the play, is the lighting which helps us recognise the time and place, separating Beau’s heart touching monologues from an otherwise bubbly and staccato flow of Gently Down the Stream.
The whole play succeeded in drawing an exquisite picture of, to me recently, unknown times. It is a delightful comedy that carries brutal tragedies, life learned lessons, some easier to relate to and others filled with pain. All the elements of Gently Down The Stream seem to complement one another, bringing the script to life in the most enjoyable way, and providing us with an extraordinary piece of theatre.