The Other Side of the Coin – Review by Frances Winston.
Gay Beatings have been in the news a lot recently and here co-writers Derek Masterson and Brian Murray tackle the subject head on as three “respectable” men spend their days in the office and their evenings sorting out the “fags”. Realising that nobody is going to look for the “men in suits” they freely cruise the streets looking for vulnerable victims that they can beat to a pulp simply for their sexuality. When one 17-year-old victim of their wrath is killed, Lenny is convinced by his two cohorts Terry and Barry that he was responsible for the final blow. Wracked by guilt but wanting to fit in, he agrees to go to a gay bar to meet their next victim a male escort Ray. However on meeting Ray he realises that they have a history and he starts to question the life he has been sucked into. When the group are mistaken for gay men as they come out of the bar Lenny gets a taste of his own medicine and is saved by Ray while Barry and Terry run off. As the pair chat home truths come to the fore and Lenny comes to terms with incidents in his childhood. But Terry and Barry are determined to rid the world of Ray and his ilk and a final showdown ensues where Lenny’s loyalties and beliefs will be tested to their very core.
This is hard hitting from the off. If you are easily offended this is not for you as rent boy Ray tries to figure out his explicit advert for an escort site. It doesn’t get any lighter as the group graphically discuss what they will do to the guys they target. At times it is so full on you feel as if a message is being shoved down your throat. This is the main fault of what is essentially a brilliant and engaging play. The message is reiterated so often that it does become tedious.
Thankfully Aron Hegarty as Ray and Anthony Blake as Lenny have a really great chemistry and their scenes are incredibly engaging and thought provoking. You develop a huge sympathy for Ray early on, the “tart with a heart” open about what he does and unapologetic for his life choices who later on risks himself to save Lenny.
When the trio are discussing what they will do to their victims it becomes somewhat annoying as there is a lot of repetition but once they are on a mission the story moves along nicely and is handled well. The space is Outhouse is used to it’s fullest with entrances and exits happening all over the room and not just the stage and the music is well chosen to move along the action.
The lighting doesn’t always work but this could be a venue issue rather than a design thing and the stage combat was not always on par and personally took me out of the play on several occasions. If someone hits someone there should be a sound and it should look like they’ve hit them. Even in a small space this is achievable and here it wasn’t accomplished. In a play about men who beat up gay men this should really have been a priority to keep the audience engaged as the violence is a big feature in this work.
At 70 minutes this is a long one act play that drags early on but when it gets going really works. Not all of the cast are engaged in what is going on though and sometimes it is as if they are saying words rather than embodying them but thankfully the others in the cast more than make up for this and keep us intrigued. There is a bit of telegraphing in the story but that is fine as it is done with awareness. Overall this is a powerful story about a real issue that has some lovely moments and some really good writing compounded with some lovely scenes with Lenny and Ray. Worth a look.
No Tears Production web site is here.
Two Sides of the Coin runs in Outhouse as part of the Gay Theatre Festival, 105 Capel Street until Saturday 17th 2014 nightly at 7.30pm and 1pm on Saturday 17th May
May. €15/13 concession.