Theatre Review of Landmark Production's Blowing Whistles In association with July 26th - August 4th, 2012 at the Pal Studio Theatre in Vancouver, BC

This year, as part of Vancouver Pride, Landmark productions presented Matthew Todd’s Blowing Whistles, a two act play that tells the story of a gay couple who struggle to keep their relationship alive. Blowing Whistles, which originally premiered in London in 2005, is more than just a tale of a troubled relationship – it’s also a compelling look at how underlying secrets can threaten to destroy what we hold dear and how our personal choices can have traumatic consequences on those who love us.

The play centres around the characters of Nigel and Jamie on the couple’s tenth anniversary. As an anniversary celebration, Nigel invites an unknown young man by the name of Mark, whom he met online to have a threesome with himself and Jamie. Except for this couple, threesomes are not reserved simply for special occasions. We learn that Nigel is a gay sex site addict and frequently arranges for these types of sexual encounters. Although Jamie is hesitant, he always relents and engages in these threesomes to please his Nigel. However, on this particular night the young man whom they invite over is different from the rest of their hook-ups – he has a different agenda. Set against the backdrop of Vancouver’s Gay Pride, Blowing Whistles tells a story that on the surface may seem only relatable to some audiences; but when studied deeper, this is a play that painfully touches many audiences, gay or straight, single or coupled.

Shane Bingham and Cameron Crosby play the roles of jamie and nigel in "Blowing Whistles".

Shane Bingham and Cameron Crosby play the roles of jamie and nigel in "Blowing Whistles".

Why? Three reasons. Nigel’s addiction to sex is a legitimate addiction, just like an addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling. He is constantly online checking out profiles and chatting with other men, always looking for sex. He gets to the point where he doesn’t even care if Jamie is involved or not. Similar to other addictions, Nigel becomes overpowered by his urges and his actions – he displays mood swings and lies compulsively. It eventually becomes impossible to distinguish the real Nigel from the personality that his addiction has created. Michael Lyon’s performance as Nigel is a bang-on depiction of someone completely overtaken by a poisonous addiction and who is no longer in control of their actions.

Secondly, Blowing Whistles is about making choices. We all come from different backgrounds, have had different opportunities and all painfully faced the struggles of sexuality and adolescence. The character of Mark symbolizes all of these things and his journey shows us that while people may make certain choices so they can be perceived a certain way, sooner or later these choices define who they are, right down to their core – they truly become the disguise they’ve been displaying.

Mark’s journey tells the heartbreaking story of a young gay boy who is thrown out of his home and forced to grow up on his own. However, the choices that he consequently makes are deliberate, strategic and similar to many, regardless of sexual orientation. Cameron Crosby delivers an honest and moving performance that shows the transformation of an innocent kid to a conniving home wrecker who thrives off the thrill of playing with people’s emotions.

Nigel and Jamie's relationship is complicated further with the arrival of Mark, played by Michael Lyons (on the right of the left photo; Right photo).

Nigel and Jamie's relationship is complicated further with the arrival of Mark, played by Michael Lyons (on the right of the left photo; Right photo).

Thirdly, Blowing Whistles touches audiences because Jamie’s experience makes us question how much we value ourselves and how much crap we are willing to take from our partners before we call it quits. Jamie is not a victim of physical abuse, nor is he incompetent or ignorant – he’s an intelligent and caring young man who is the victim of psychological abuse and watching him suffer is gut wrenching. Shane Bingham delivers a magnificent performance that combines humour and a likeable personality with sensitivity and painful insecurity that is truly compelling.

Brilliantly directed by Morgan David Jones, Landmark Productions’ presentation of Blowing Whistles is a powerful piece of theatre that takes its audiences on an intimate emotional journey. Yes, this story speaks directly to gay audiences, but it also speaks to straight audiences as well because of its universal nature. It forces us all to take a look at what we value and how deep our integrity is. Ironically set against the background of Gay Pride, Blowing Whistles asks the question: do you have enough pride in yourself to change your life? Prove it.

Rating: 4 stars out 5 Go to top of page

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