Nathalie Ellis-Einhorn and Maddie Flint at the Gash Theater Get Ghosted
It would be nice to report that all these decades later it has gotten easier for gay men growing up in London’s traditionally conservative communities, but when they did Rajesh and Naresh (***) is a guide, this is not the case. In fact, one of the jokes in James Ireland’s play is that Naresh (Madhav Vasantha) is much more comfortable with his sexuality in supposedly conservative India, where homosexuality was only decriminalized in 2018, than Rajesh (Brahmdeo Shannon Ramanda) has the courage to venture into the supposedly loose UK to come out to his mother.
When he manages to tell her, it creates a powerful scene in an otherwise humble and predictable piece. Directed by Sophie Cairns, it is about two men who find in each other the emotional life they lack; the handsome Rajesh taking cover behind superficial one-night stands; The 42-year-old Naresh lacks the extravagance to plunge into the gay scene. It’s a sweet, honest relationship, but it feels like the main value of the piece is letting the world know that there are gay Indian stories.
Register to our daily newsletter
The i-newsletter cut through the noise
Nathalie Ellis-Einhorn and Maddie Flint don’t seem to have such problems with their sexuality Gash Theater becomes ghostly (****) Whether with men or women, they feel comfortable in their romantic relationships, even if the “ghost image” of the title extends to the lovers they would sooner forget.
What bothers them are gender-specific images. On one level, their online game is a blocky adaptation of the horror film. It starts with the shaky handheld camera movements of The Blair Witch Project before the two actors are trapped in a haunted house with the lights off. With their homemade special effects (the strings can always be seen) and their melodramatic gestures, they don’t expect their predicament to be taken seriously.
However, their feminist criticism is serious. When this house is haunted, it is less the ghost that leaves them teasing messages on heart-shaped cards than the iconography of pop culture.
Sam Kaseta’s sound design is overlaid with male voices, from Fight Club to James Bond, from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “I’ll be back” to Humphrey Bogart’s “We’ll always have Paris”. They are differently macho and polite, perhaps a shield for the raw manhood of the werewolf who appears at the first sight of a full moon.
In contrast, Ellis-Einhorn and Maddie Flint go into maiden-in-distress mode, all of them tormented expressions and arms waving. When the noise stops, they talk about how these images of violence and vulnerability have worked their way into their real-life relationships. The fact that their conversations are expressed by the furniture only adds to the heightened theatricality of an amusing and provocative show.
Another type of horror appears in Katie Bonnas The conversation (****), a radio play that begins as a gentle observation comedy and develops into something dark and traumatic. It’s about Anna, an employee of a children’s party entertainment company, who withdraws as a meditation into the “happy place” fantasy of her headphones. As her unexpected infatuation with a work colleague intensifies, her inner monologue becomes more and more hectic. The line between fact and fiction is blurring and their escape from reality is more desperate. It hits a happy ending, but it’s hard won and all the more rewarding for it.Rajesh and Naresh, Summerhall online; Gash Theater Gets Spooky, Montage Showcatcher (online); The entertainment, Summerhall online.
A message from the editor:
Thank you for reading this article. We need your support more than ever as the changes in consumer habits caused by the coronavirus are affecting our advertisers.