The Gay Detective

by Gerard Stembridge

Directed by Roger Beaumont

October 19th - 26th, 2002

The Tower Theatre performing at the Tower Theatre, Canonbury


Cast List

Pat : Dominic Ward
Ginger : Adrian Prota
Bear / Wolf : Michael Greener
Puppy / Lizard : Katy Boyask
TD / Badger / Snake : Ian Hoare
Pig / Bull : Ralph Ward
Squirrel / Mouse : Philip O'Gorman


Production Team

Director : Roger Beaumont
Set Designer : Alan Dixon
Lighting Designer : Nick Insley
Costume Designer : Jude Chalk
Sound Designer : Phillip Ley

Stage Manager : Dinah Irvine
ASM : Joe Radcliffe
Lighting operator : Mark Borowski
Sound operators : Douglas McDiarmid, Linky Trott
Set construction : John Sole, Keith Syrett, Robert Myer and members of cast & crew

In-house review by Marie Stone

Marie Stone, with two non-fiction books and three novels published, has homes in London and Italy. She has been seeing plays for over 50 years.

In 1993, when homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland, the play The Gay Detective was performed in Dublin, capital of then still a staunchly Catholic country : it must have had a dramatic impact. At the Tower, 9 years on, it played as a social comedy. Continuous short scenes - as in a TV script, or perhaps emulating a Raymond Chandler text - show Pat, the young ambitious gay police officer, lured by glory and the promise of promotion in to infiltrating the homosexual underworld to crack the drugs trade. Investigating an attack on two gay men he questions one of the victims, Ginger, then very quickly falls in love and into bed with him. A politician's murder leads him to danger and the discovery of sexual/political scandals involving public figures.

Apart from Pat, the gay detective himself, and his lover Ginger, all the characters in this play have the names of animals, although not, unlike in Volpone, clearly displaying conventional characteristics of the breeds : this was to me an annoying and unfair - to animals - device. One such, named Bull, has not a word to say whereas Man utters a few words yet is not mentioned in the published cast list.

Pat's boss, Police Superintendent Bear, confronted with evidence of the murder of a minor gay victim - but not the famous politician, known as TD - by one of a trio of prominent public figures, decides to do nothing. Nothing, that is, until the detective has again, at great danger to himself, dug up definitive proof against the nefarious trio :
BEAR: 'What I do want, just as much as you, is to see these three perverts put away. But it has to be, can only be, if we can prove they were involved in murdering TD. No one else good bad or indifferent. Do you follow? It's a fact of life.'
PAT: 'I understand.'
BEAR: 'Good. Good. That's the man. Now. What's the immediate plan then?'
PAT: 'I'm going home.'
Thus Pat abandons his career in exchange for the ambition to care for his lover Ginger and the play ends with an inexplicable anti-climax.

Dominic Ward played Pat with a gauche charm that disguised the difficulties of a role that had him on stage for the entirety of the play. He surmounted the many mood, scene, sexual encounters and costume changes with accomplished ease. As Superintendent Bear, Michael Greener needed more underlying homophobic menace; however, as the sadistic murderer, Wolf, he was red-faced vicious, gloating and venomous, a horribly believable portrayal. His first two roles were too small to make much impact, but Ian Hoare as Snake, a procuring, G & T drinking, cultured violinist, camp but with an often-present woman companion as cover, was smoothly convincing as he lured Pat to the sinister country house weekend.

Actors and lawyers are said to have much in common. Ralph Ward as the vain, over-clever lawyer Pig, certainly convinced the audience with close to legal skill. Squirrel and Mouse, respectively sauna attendant and dumb servant to the criminal conspirators were parts that engaged sympathy : Philip O'Gorman did not over-sugar them. Ginger, the prickly but lovable Ginger, was just right. He was hampered by the shallowness and stereotyping of the writing. This shallowness also wasted the talent of Katy Boyask, whose role, despite her excellent effort, was often rendered meaningless by being under-written; for example as when she utters, 'Fuck off!' to Pat at the anti-climactic ending when the detective has returned to care for Ginger, his HIV positive lover.

The set - a semi circle of upright timbers served well, with minimal prop changes, as police office, various diverse bedrooms, street scenes, a sauna and so on. The cast hover, coming and going from the dimness of the surrounds which they inhabited together with male, shopwindow, mannequins. Music was used with effect, the lighting and the fluid movements of the cast during the many short scenes worked excellently. Good direction, good acting ... not a very good play, I'm sorry to have to say.