The post-office footie game heats up
In a company full of young people doing dull office jobs, the staff are all trying to establish their lives, to get ahead, and to get into each other's pants. It's a situation as old as the shorthand/typist, but these days, as first-time playwright Jason Charles has grasped, there are potential new twists.
Gay workers are increasingly likely to be "out" at work, and their colleagues are going to have to come to terms to working, and socialising, and even getting changed in the same dressing room, as them.
That's the situation at the start of Steam, which opened last night at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington. Matt (Oscar Wild), the self-proclaimed office alpha male, who treats his girlfriend Vanessa (Lusia McAnespie) with scant respect, is horrified to find that for a football match against their deadly rivals in the crate-hire business, she's enlisted a quiet, serious, and gay, member of staff, Luke (a finely judged, subtle performance from Daniel Kanaber). One of Matt's more repeatable names for him is "fairy-cakes".
The team grows by one with the arrival of Chris (Glynn Doggett), who's also straight. He seems young, and vulnerable, and you wonder what he might be dragged into by this dominating character until the numbers are evened up with the final member of the "team", Billy (Jonathan Gibson), the office junior. He's as camp and over-the-top as could be imagined, and has a fine line in sexy song-and-dance routines.
There's time for a few nice one-liners: "I had a promotion but it is not a lobotomy", says Matt. "I don't usually associate loving with Ronnie Kray," says Luke, after walking in on some of Matt's "rough wooing" of Vanessa. But the play is a bit slow to get started. Will there be an all-in brawl? you wonder.
No. Instead, a curious sport develops - the telling of what Matt identifies as NQEs (Near Queer Experiences). For a homophobe, Matt is curiously keen to talk about gay sex and gay life. And he seems curiously keen to touch, even if it is often a punch, the apparently vulnerable Billy.
But what about the football? Well, there is no game - at least not of that sort, for, it emerges, there's a lot more to this Friday after-work gathering than that. And there's a lot more to this apparently prosaic locker-room than meets the eye.