Born during the first lockdown in 2020 with the first reading taking place on Zoom, Paul Bradshaw's Tell me Straight has come a long way since - winning critical acclaim and award nominations. Following a successful run at King's Head Theatre last year, it has returned to London for an encore run, allowing more of us to see why people are talking about this play.
Writer and co-producer Paul Bradshaw stars as the character known only as "Him". Playing back moments from his past and taking him up to the present day, we are taken into tales of his various conquests - namely his penchant for straight men. Reliving his past experiences and mistakes in an attempt to break the cycle, this is a whistlestop tour of scene to scene and man to man in the space of a short and snappy 75 minutes.
There are just two actors in this play with the roles of all of the other men admirably played by George Greenland. Whether it is his childhood best friend, the "straight" man he meets at an audition or his friend Ryan, George shows incredible versatility (and a whole lot of accents) as he encompasses all of these characters with the simple change in a shirt. It is fascinating to watch the different interactions and types of chemistry the same actors can have from one scene to the next. Extremely varied and brilliantly acted, George makes these characters come to life in what is comparatively a very small amount of time on stage for each.
As Him, Bradshaw is brilliant. Based on his own experiences, Tell Me Straight is an art in storytelling. He manages to take the audience into the moment, opening up to us through the toughest of moments and ensuring the audience are rooting for him, no matter who he ends up with. The pair are joined by the voice of Stephanie Levi-John whose messages as best friend Dani push the narrative.
Directed and co-produced by Imogen Frances, there are no real set pieces in Tell Me Straight - just two chairs adorning the rather small space at Chiswick Playhouse (not mentioning Georges clothes stand that miraculously transforms him into all the other characters). Not once does it feel boring though - who needs props when you have two fabulous actors giving it their all on stage in a commanding and captivating performance?
As an ageing gay man, some of the situations in this play were extremely relatable. (Who could resist a straight man?) Very close to home in parts, it was a testament to the authentic writing and believable performances at how it all translated off the stage. Tell Me Straight is fantastically written with some witty one-liners, great banter between the characters and a surprising amount of heart throughout, particularly in the shows climax.
It's easy to see why people have been raving about Tell Me Straight. Well written, brilliantly acted and very relatable, it is an absolute triumph in storytelling. A Queer love story with the unique twist of being about strauight men, this is a show that deserves to be seen by the masses. Expect everybody to fall in love with Tell Me Straight like Him falls for straight men.
Tell Me Straight plays at Chiswick Playhouse until February 26th. Tickets from https://chiswickplayhouse.nliven.co/tickets/series/tellmestraight
Photos by Danny Kaan