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Stop Kiss (Susan Elkin reviews)

Stop Kiss
by Diana Son. Produced by Kylie Vilcins for Above The Stag Theatre.
society/company: West End & Fringe
performance date: 12 Nov 2019
venue: Above the Stag Theatre, 72 Albert Embankment, Vauxhall, London SE1 7TP


Another interesting, thoughtful piece at London’s only space dedicated to exploring LGBTQ related work, Stop Kiss is well worth catching.

We’re in New York City in the early 2000s where two professional women – one a teacher and the other a weather station radio presenter – meet. Each has a strong heterosexual past and the gradual discovery that they are drawn to each other surprises them both. It’s a snappily written narrative studded with flashforwards (as opposed to flashbacks) because eventually they become the victims of an appalling incident. This 100-minute, straight through, play skilfully builds the tension by feeding information to the audience in small dollops.

The most striking thing about the show is the quality of acting which director Rafaella Marcus has coaxed out of her cast of six: three women and three men. The best acting is, of course, “invisible” because it’s so naturalistic that you quickly become totally convinced. And that’s certainly the case here. Kara Taylor Alberts as Sara and Suzanne Boreel as Callie are awkward with each other for a long time and that’s perfectly caught – especially when they spend a night in the same bed for “sensible” non-sexual reasons so they chat inconsequentially and the tension is palpable.

Matt Brewer as Detective Cole has exactly the right edginess for a New York cop who has seen it all. Rebecca Crankshaw doubles a concerned neighbour and a kindly hospital nurse with very believable warmth. Ashley D Gayle is strong as Callie’s decent (sort of) on and off boyfriend/ best friend and I love the way Alfie Webster’s Peter uses silences and micro facial expressions to convey feelings he can barely hold in.

The staging is neat too – designed by Anna Reid. We’re in Callie’s untidy flat on a slightly raised dais. The flashforward scenes take place in the annular space around the dais so the distinction is clear.

My only caveat is that this is (sadly) a timeless play and it could very easily have been set in 2019. It needs only the tiniest tweaks – replace the dated landline with a mobile, use an iPad instead of a CD player and alter the one or two date references in the text. As it is the period detail, such as it is, feels a bit laboured and unnecessary.

First published by Sardines:
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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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