Ground-breaking gay play comes to Brum
Posted on 3 Sep 2018

Midlands-born actor Tom Silverton this month makes his Old Joint Stock Theatre debut, playing Michael in a new comic four-hander about sex and commitment in the 21st century. Tom recently took time out from his cover shoot with Midlands Zone to chat about this much-anticipated play, and to tell us a bit more about what audiences can expect...

Why is Four Play a relevant drama for our times, Tom?
It explores what relationships have become in the time of Grindr, Tinder, Hornet etc. They can be a lot more open and fluid, and I think that people who were in a relationship before this phenomenon kicked off may feel a little bit left behind, as though they’ve missed out on all this opportunity to be so easily promiscuous and easy-going. There are plenty of contemporary cultural references in the play, and the dialogue is very conversational, which adds to the intimacy. Four Play exposes the frustrations that can arise for couples in long-term relationships. Are they involving another member to simply spice up their sex life, or are they doing it to save an already-crumbling relationship? With relationships being a lot more open these days, the definition of monogamous can be slightly looser.

Does the play centre on a throuple or a threesome? What’s the difference?
Without giving too much away, one couple propositions half of another couple with an idea which means there’s a certain amount of risk involved for them all. There’s definitely a great deal of intimacy for the three characters. I would say a throuple is a three-way relationship in every aspect, but a threesome is purely a physical, sexual experience.


(Rehearsal shot)

Do the characters in the play distinguish between sex and a loving relationship?
Definitely. One of the characters gets about quite a bit, but he still saves ‘something’ intimate for his partner. He believes what he’s doing is purely physical, whereas what he has with his partner is truly loving and special.

Can you give us some background to the four characters?
We have two couples: Rafe & Pete and Andrew & Michael. Michael’s my character. Rafe and Pete are in a seven-and-a-half-year relationship, and one of them instigates the idea to involve one of the other couple. Pete is quite adventurous and likes to pass off the power to Rafe, but he can be a little uptight and is very sensitive. Andrew and Michael have been together a couple of years. Andrew is easy-going and loving, which Michael can take advantage of. He’s often out at all hours at the gym.


(Rehearsal shot)

Where does the comedy angle come from?
Relationships aren’t usually one long battle, so there’s plenty of playfulness between the couples. I think comedy comes from tension too, so even if the characters aren’t being directly funny, their sly comments, slip-ups and mistakes provide plenty of laughs, along with a few tongue-in-cheek moments.

How much sexual content is there, and is there an audience age limit?
Sex is one of the biggest topics of the play, so there’s plenty of it explored by the characters - from kinky things to sensual candles, it covers a lot! As for an age limit, it’s at your own discretion, but I wouldn’t bring your kids -  it’d make for a bit of a full-on sex-ed.


What research have you undertaken for the role?
Well, I haven’t signed up to Grindr, but I’ve spoken to a few friends about their experiences. For my own character of Michael, who’s obsessed with fitness, I’ve been hitting the gym as much as possible. As for the cast as a whole, people have really been delving into the details of the script and then going away to create these rich backgrounds for the characters; where they work, their families, their favourite bars - anything that’ll bring them to life.

Is Four Play best suited to an intimate performance area like The Old Joint Stock, or would it work equally well on a larger scale?
The OJS is the perfect venue for it; the characters are revealing all the intimate details right in front of you. It feels like you’re right there with them throughout the whole play.

There’s been a big furore over Jack Whitehall - a straight man - playing a gay character in Disney’s Jungle Cruise. What’s your opinion on straight men playing gay characters?
I can understand the frustration from the LGBT community, as it’s important to improve representation in Hollywood, giving everyone an equal opportunity. On the other hand, if they felt he was the very best person to fulfil that role because of his acting ability, then that’s fair enough. However, Disney may well have played on the controversy a little to generate publicity, which could be considered a little exploitative.

Four Play shows at Birmingham’s Old Joint Stock Theatre from Wednesday 5 to Saturday 8        September. Tickets HERE


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