However you sexually identify, there’s a palpable tension in Tom Ratcliffe’s Circa that resonates with so many of our common emotions.

Ratcliffe’s narrative escorts us through 30 years of Man’s life, reminding us of the harsh realities of the social pressures faced by gay men in the 21st Century. We are taken on an evolutionary journey of love, lust and loss, in every sense of the words.

Treated to well-executed multi-roling, we are exposed to different layers of gay identity by the three stages of The Man and those he encounters. Thomas Flynn, who plays The Younger Man, amongst other roles, controls the space magnificently. Flynn creates texture of character and his undeniably believable performance highlight’s Ratcliffe’s play as a reflection.

Anthony Gabriel as The Older Man delivers both discomfort and poignancy in his acting. The range of roles portrayed so attentively in this production enable an accessibility beneath the surface of a complex culture, whilst maintaining appropriate levels of comedy and sadness. The three ages of Man are played almost cohesively, we can follow his development of character as he interacts with the different strains of relationships and sexuality.

In the Old Red Lion Theatre, designer Luke W. Robson exploits his gorgeous white and grey set to utilise a range of colourful mood lighting. The modern and functional set assists well in transitioning between the ages of Man in a simple form. Filled with haze, we perhaps are not only made aware of the steaminess of this production but the blurriness of identity.

There is an increasing intensity of loneliness in all forms as we are taken full-circle with contrasting themes of optimism, pessimism and realism. Ratcliffe’s play is a fantastic exploration of the toxicity of social expectations for gay men.

Reviewer: Jessica Battison

Reviewed: 7th March 2019

North West End Rating: ★★★★