'On Tidy Endings/Safe Sex' review or 'Where should we send our condolences?'

'On Tidy Endings' and 'Safe Sex', Harvey Fierstein
Tristan Bates Theatre, 24th April 2014 
Written for Time Out


Harvey Fierstein, who wrote the books for ‘La Cage aux Folles’ and ‘Kinky Boots’, is a musical theatre legend. But the New Yorker also used to write short plays and ‘Safe Sex’ and ‘On Tidy Endings’ are pulled from a 1987 trilogy about Aids. Fierstein’s trademark wit keeps these plays interesting, but they feel awfully big and brittle in this small fringe theatre. 

‘Safe Sex’ examines the fractured relationship between two re-united lovers, Ghee (CJ de Mooi) and Mead (Cole Michaels). The threat of Aids hangs heavily over the two – especially Ghee, who clings to the Safe Sex Manual like a life line. 

It’s a tidy idea, but Dan Philip’s production is over-inflated and frustratingly vague. Anger is turned on and off like a tap, until it runs out of meaning. The phrasing clangs loudly (‘You started this shower – now stand under it!’) and there’s an air of showiness to the piece that prevents it from feeling intimate or true. 

‘On Tidy Endings’ depicts a sad reunion between the ex-wife and boyfriend of a recently deceased Aids victim, Collin. Deena Payne from ‘Emmerdale’ is impressively composed as the sharp-suited wife Marion and De Mooi, as boyfriend Arthur, trembles with untapped rage and sorrow. 

The show is still very bumpy – but there are some horrific home truths nestling in here. Arthur’s isolation is particularly shocking and sad. We discover he has been cut out of newspaper obituaries and ignored or shunned by the very relations who should have taken care of him. 

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