The Boys in the Band
Time Out says
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Mark Gatiss and his hubbie Ian Hallard star in this rancorous gay theatre classic
Before he became a household name with ‘Sherlock’, Mark Gatiss was, of course, one quarter of the seminal League of Gentlemen, the comedy troupe whose repertoire of unforgettable grotesques was sourced up from the breadth of the twentieth century’s most iconic films and plays.
It’s not surprising, then, that he’s a fan of Mart Crowley’s ‘The Boys In the Band’, a classic – if now somewhat forgotten – 1968 US drama about a group of gay frenemies’s boozy, bitchy birthday gathering. Gatiss plays the birthday boy: Harold, a savagely ironic, shades wearing provocateur who skulks late into his own party like a sardonic Count Dracula. He is very League of Gentlemen, as is the borderline sadistic game that increasingly unpleasant party host Michael (Ian Hallard, Gatiss’s real-life husband, in the night’s best turn) forces his guests to play, demanding they call up somebody they love – in most cases, a straight guy – and tell them their true feelings.
At its best Adam Penford’s revival makes for a funny, dark and brutal play, stuffed with memorable turns. Written way before the Aids era – when gay theatre hit the mainstream – Crowley seems to strongly suggest that the biggest challenge facing the community of the day was the crushing loneliness of being isolated from a less tolerant ‘straight’ society (here exemplified by Michael’s straight, belligerent, somewhat underused ex-roommate Alan, who stumbles into the party by mistake).