Christopher Hampton made theatrical history in 1966 when, as a 20

year old Oxford undergraduate, he became the youngest playwright in

modern times to have a show staged in the West End.

Written for a student competition when he was just 18, it bears

the hallmarks of a young man’s attempt to make sense of his sexuality

and of his place in society. It also reveals a very clever mind and a

precocious wit.

Ian is out of work, lonely and sharing a London bedsit with

former schoolfriend, Jimmy, until they take up their university places.

Jimmy (Sam Swainsbury) has an easy confidence, comes from a wealthy

background and (though he had his share of homo-erotic encounters at

their single sex public school) is now busy notching up female


In contrast, self-pity oozes from every pore of Ian’s body and

he’s predominantly interested in men – and in Jimmy. With his messy

hair, barbed repartee and massive chip on his shoulder, Ian's a

decidedly unsympathetic character – all of which makes it hard to

believe that Jimmy’s soignée mother (an emotional Abigail Cruttenden)

would turn to him for sexual solace.

That said, Blanche McIntyre’s long overdue and always watchable

revival captures the ambivalence of an era in change and (as

manipulative, angry young man of the 60’s Ian) Harry Melling proves

there’s far more to his talent than the minor role of Dudley Dursley in

the Harry Potter films

–  Louise Kingsley

Trafalgar Studios, Whitehall, SW1A 2DY

Tube: Charing Cross

0844 871 7632

Until October 8