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Remembrance Monday Review – Seven Dials Playhouse until 1 June. 

This new two-hander from Michael Batten, directed by Alan Souza, certainly has all the trappings of a gay play: dating apps, a gay couple (artist and ex-dancer), semi-nudity, humour, sexuality, talking about sex – and half-open, half-happy relationships.

But what is truly original here is Batten’s treatment of neurodivergence in a gay relationship. This isn’t a spoiler; it’s clear early on in the dialogue patterns that, oh hang on, there’s Something Going On. Addressing mental health in drama is nothing new: skip through Oedipus, Hamlet and George III and round the corner at the Donmar we’ve even had a (jaw-dropping) musical about bipolarity with Next to Normal, now West End-bound.

Abound, too, are plays about memory and loss – and loss of memory. This is also a well-observed study of love and loss, and of a flawed relationship (is there any other kind?) which we observe from Julius’s (Nick Hayes) point of view.

Remembrance Monday review
Remembrance Monday (Photo credit Danny Kaan)

Nick Hayes provides the central focus as Julius. It’s a self-assured, intelligent performance with an almost palpable sense of thinking behind the eyes that never wavers. Conor (Matthew Stathers) is an easy watch on every level. All braun and smiles, we see the best of him through Julius’s eyes. It’s a confident and competent performance, but he’s under-used. We learn little about him and he often serves as a prop or device for Julius. 

There is real chemistry between the two men and the passion and excitement of a new relationship is convincing. So too is the nervousness and the sense of compromise (‘I let you have that, so you don’t leave me’). What is less apparent is the love: the shared tenderness, the lingering glance, the non-sexual everyday physicality.

Review of Remembrance Monday at Seven Dials Playhouse
Remembrance Monday (Photo credit Danny Kaan)

Technically, it’s excellent and all marries well. The lighting (Jack Weir) fizzes and the sound (Sarah Weltman) flashes, and both indicate trauma without whacking us over the head with the metaphor. Andrew Exeter’s unfussy bathroom set is perfect for what is an incredibly intimate and intense 3x3m in-the-round space. Nowhere to run – or dance, come to that, but nostalgic hints of movement allude to a previous lucidity of mind and body.

Remembrance Monday (Photo credit Danny Kaan)
Remembrance Monday review (Photo credit Danny Kaan)
Remembrance Monday (Photo credit Danny Kaan)

At 80 minutes, Souza keeps up the pace. It’s very noisy, in volume and pacing, and we’re barely given a chance to draw breath. There’s occasional let up. Hayes’ soliloquy, almost Shakespearean, is breathtaking: poised, focused, captivating and moving – a meadow in the jungle. He has moments here and elsewhere of brave stillness that give his performance a Beckett-like sense of futility and loneliness.

QX rating ★★★★

Remembrance Monday runs until 1 June at Seven Dials Playhouse, 1A Tower St, London WC2H 9NP, United Kingdom.

Tickets for Remembrance Monday https://www.sevendialsplayhouse.co.uk/shows/remembrance-monday

Remembrance Monday

By Michael Batten

Playwright: Michael Batten

Director: Alan Souza

Set Designer: Andrew Exeter

Lighting Designer: Jack Weir

Sound Designer: Sarah Weltman

Movement Director: Dianté Lodge

Casting: Pearson Casting CDG

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