Last Updated on June 26, 2021 by Fiona Maclean
Southwark Playhouse presents Staircase by Charles Dyer.
Staircase by Charles Dyer opened on 23 June and will run until 17th July. A West End and Broadway hit in the late ’60s when it premiered, this revival, the first production in nearly 50 years, is by Two’s Company. It’s a moment in history, an insight into life in the early 1960s when homosexuality was still illegal in the UK. Charlie, a successful actor in past times, and Harry, the owner of a mens’ hairdresser in Brixton and his partner, have been together for 20 years.
They appear to have a love-hate relationship. Circumstances are not ideal. For a start, Harry is losing his hair and appears for much of the play with his head bandaged. Charlie taunts him, singing ‘alopecia’ set to the Hallelujah chorus. It’s obvious this is a serious matter for a hairdresser and Harry tries wearing a less than convincing wig.
Worse though is Charlie’s situation. He’s been caught in a pub in drag, sitting on a man’s knee. And arrested. When there’s a knock on the door and he’s served with a summons, he’s clearly terrified.
While there’s a sense of dark humour throughout the show, the poignant sadness of this couple, living a secret life, is overwhelming. With the benefit of hindsight we can say that things have changed but, that’s not without many lives being spoilt by society at that time. A reminder of the need to keep an open mind and a generous heart.
Directed by Tricia Thorns and starring Paul Rider (Chicago, West End; French and Saunders) and John Sackville (Absolute Hell, An Inspector Calls, National Theatre), Staircase is still a clarion call for a more accepting society. The simple set is a real step back in time and the acting admirably convincing. Recommended.
Still based in the Newington Causeway theatre, Southwark Playhouse is one of the more challenging venues to socially distance its audience. They’ve done so with perspex shields between social groups which work admirably well although I did find the ‘single cells’ just a little claustrophobic. Drinks are served to your seats or at tables in the bar area.
Southwark Playhouse will also be live streaming both performances on July 3rd. Click the “Livestream” tab on their site to book a virtual ticket or seats for the theatre.
77-85 Newington Causeway
London SE1 6BD
020 7407 0234