This excellent one-man show from Britain is an intriguing tale, well told. Listening to Kyle - a male escort hired by a gay footballer - is like listening to juicy tabloid gossip from one who has really, delightedly, lived it.
However, this ain't a frothy Pretty Woman for the sports crowd - not least because Kyle and his unnamed client can never be seen in public as a couple. That would risk the footballer's career and possibly even his life (the next two World Cup locations of Russia and Qatar are described as "the two biggest fingers Fifa could stick up" while Justin Fashanu, the first openly gay professional British footballer, "ended up hanging from the f***ing roof of a Shoreditch lock-up").
But cleverly, the play does not preach - male sports homophobia is only its context, while its centre-stage focus is Kyle (Rob Ward, directed by his co-writer Martin Jameson) and his very human story.
Kyle is a cheery, savvy, ordinary young man who is running a rather complicated life; he's a slave to not one but two phones - if it is not his pimp calling, then it is his mother. He is surrounded by family and friends - awkward family encounters are nicely sketched - and we slowly find out who knows he is gay, and who knows he is both gay and an escort. (After just a couple of pithy bedroom details we know that Kyle is a complete pro - he knows how to please his clients.)
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The first scene could use a couple of jokes, and a couple of late plot points are a bit deus ex machina contrived, but the tale is compelling, and the show - after several Ward/Jameson restagings - feels wonderfully lived-in.
The staging is simple - a couch, some clothing, no sound effects, a few subtle lighting shifts. The success of the play rests with the subtle, pungent script, and Ward's easy, understated charisma as a storyteller.
Sound is no problem, but sit up close. Recommended.
What: Away from Home
Where: Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland
When: Until Saturday