Review: All I See is You, Octagon Theatre

A full house and a standing ovation later, Kathrine Smith’s award winning production All I See Is You will take you on emotional rollercoaster, full of gasps and chuckles that you can’t help but be caught up in.

Octagon Theatre is celebrating 50 years of making theatre in Bolton which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act. It was Smith’s duologue that won this year’s National Octagon Prize.

Directed by Octagon’s Associate Director Ben Occhipinti, the title honours 60’s gay icon Dusty Springfield, who wrote love songs including ‘All I See Is You’ whilst hiding her relationship with a woman.

The love-forbidden tale follows the lives and relationship between Bobby (Ciarán Griffiths) and Ralph (Christian Edwards) in Bolton during the 1960’s. It was a time when people had to suppress their sexuality. Clubs would be raided, dads neglected their sons, police would carry out brutal interrogations and hospitals conducted psychiatric ‘cures’.

Set in an intimate studio with stools and the odd whirl of a disco ball, the play is stripped down to focus on Bobby and Ralph’s desiring love for one another. Bobby is a typical northern working-class boy, earning a living on Woolies record counter. He embraces his sexuality and is partial to a trip down Canal Street, whilst Ralph is cautious and is constantly in conflict with his feelings. Often found with his head in a book, he’s the first in his family to go to university and dreams of being a teacher.

It’s Griffiths (Shameless’ Micky Maguire) and Edwards who embrace their characters vulnerability so well. Their performances grip you by the throat as they address their feelings of love, fright and despair directly to the audience. Their movements and emotions are so intense, it infuses your soul with pain. From Bobby pleading to find the whereabouts of his true love, to Ralph’s excruciating screams during aversion therapy, it’s hard to fathom the reality of illegal love.

During the 70 minutes of heart-ache and hope, there’s a surprising unveil of comedy. The audience are often giggling, particularly at the first escapade between the two lovers that swiftly moves from the gents toilets to Ralph’s bedroom, but it’s soon brought to a halt as Ralphs father appears at the door.

Katherine Smith has created two ordinary characters whose worlds simply collide, but together they experience the highest highs and the lowest lows. They’re incredibly real and relatable, which is what makes the performance so powerful and moving.

All I See Is You is a heart-wrenching tribute to those who overcame prejudice and followed their heart. It’s a humorous and warm story that takes a twist to explore the dark corners of Britain’s torturing history.

I can only wish that a breath-taking production such as this, goes big and beyond.

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