Philobiblon: Rescuer or seducer?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Rescuer or seducer?

Serious middle-class types wanting to rescue prostitutes is a social phenomenon probably as old as the "oldest profession" itself. William Gladstone and Charles Dickens are two of the most famous practitioner of this dubious endeavour, but they had many forebears, and have many followers.

Observers are prone - with good reason - to scoff at the motives of the rescuers - and the more self-aware will question these themselves. And that's what Marc, the studious, thoughtful music transposer who takes on that role in John W Lowell's Taken In, which opened last night at the Barons Court Theatre, does, when he finds himself irresistibly drawn to Danny, the rent boy who he meets on Hampstead Heath.

To describe the Barons Court Theatre as "intimate" is no exaggeration, and you might think you don't want to watch a gay relationship at such close quarters. But this is, by and large, subtly done, and Danny's early attempts at seduction are so abrupt and obvious that only the coyest could be embarrassed. And as the relationship moves on to a more intimate but, on Marc's decision, distinctly non-sexual, frame there's nothing more to worry about.

Marc wants to rescue Danny - to set his dysfunctional life in order, to get him writing to his Mum, to get him a "proper", safe job, to turn him into something he's not. He's well aware of the likelihood of failure - we hear, as he offers asides delivered as much as to himself as to the audience - his understanding of his own mixed motives, yet also his desperate desire to succeed in this non-relationship, where all of his previous relationships have foundered. READ MORE


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