Their love is unlikely in all kinds of ways. Bobby, a true English lad, works at Woollies and lives with his folks in a council house.
Ralph, a sweet-tempered intellect studying a Master of Education, is the type to bring a book to a club.
Yet these barriers of class pale against all the other forces mounted against them. The two men only see each other as they meet on a street corner.
The strangers become lovers. But it’s 1960s England: being true to themselves and each other is an invitation to ruin.
Homosexuality is illegal, and for all the talk of overturning the laws, it won’t be decriminalised for another 10 years. If the outside world knew what they were up to, they’d see nothing but a filthy vice – a disorder to be fixed, by whatever invasive, brutal or shaming means necessary.
While the community furtively celebrates its lifestyle as best it can, persecution is an omniscient menace. It can erupt in a disgusted snarl from a father, a raid on a club, or a knock on the door late at night. It can ruin careers, relationships and livelihoods. (And let’s not forget, today around the world, it still can.)
For Ralph, though he curses himself a coward, the risks are too great. Confronting the impossible, inhumane choice between being with the one he adores and sacrificing everything, he despairs. The two spiral away from each other: Ralph mimics a ‘normal life’; Bobby chases carnal pleasures to forget.
A gripping, heartbreaking and hopeful story inspired by true accounts of queer love half a century ago, All I See is You is a testimony to the heroism of love against hate.
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Written by Kathrine Smith and directed by Ben Occhipinti and Mark Powell, this UK production arrives to Sydney Fringe with a deserving bounty of awards for writing and performance. It’s a resonant reminder of the state-sanctioned malice of the not-so-distant past, and individuals’ courage to defy it.
Ciarán Griffiths and Christian Edwards are compelling twin leads, the fast-paced script weaving their dialogue and monologues on a spare black stage.
The passion that their characters show for each other is frank and tender and resolutely visible.
A final shout-out to the staff at the Old 505 Theatre for getting the set so clean and bare. I had seen the very enjoyable Table for Two? just half an hour earlier, and left it a scene of spaghetti salad carnage.
All I See is You will be playing at Newtown’s The Innocent Bystander Touring Hub until Saturday.
The show plays the Melbourne Fringe, September 24-28