Writer Stephen Wyatt has had a successful and award-winning career in radio drama, with over twenty original radio plays under his belt. That’s clear to see watching Told Look Younger. It might be dialogue heavy, but it’s particularly well written, with well-rounded, natural and believable characters, and plenty of witty humour. There are even some fourth-wall breaking dramatic references.
Visually, however, the production is repetitive, but that all ties into the structure. Divided into three paralleling acts that set up contrasts and comparisons, we follow three gay men in their 60s as they meet for three dinners to discuss developments in their individual relationships. The set up remains the same in each instance, with subtle visual changes just enough to keep us interested, but our focus is very much on the dialogue. Hilariously, Simon Haines plays The Waiter in each act, managing to find plenty of humour in repeating similar lines in various guises.
The love lives of older gay men is not a subject usually written about, but Wyatt presents an honest and open look at relationships. Here are three men struggling to remain relevant in a modern world forever changing around them – a world of tragically ending partnerships, younger models and online hook-ups. The play explores ideas of what older gay men may want from a relationship and what their expectations of love might be. There’s the naïve and bumbling Oliver (Robin Hooper) who seems wedded to his research work; the grouchy, outspoken and often vulgar Jeremy (Michael Garner) in an open relationship with his long-term partner; and the suave, softly spoken yet eccentric Colin (Christopher Hunter) who intends to marry his recently met nineteen year old boyfriend – much to the horror of his two friends. By seeking out men less than half their age, are these older gentlemen looking for love in the wrong places? Is lust enough, be that based on money and/or sex? Can older men still expect a fairytale ending or should they settle for less?
Told Look Younger is a play that poses these questions and expects the audience to find out the answers for ourselves. If there’s one major constant, though, it’s that of friendship. Perhaps these three men have found what they need in each other: no matter what we go through in our lives, it’s our friends that keep us going. Is companionship stronger than love? This play may have niche appeal owing to its subject matter, but that core question we can surely all relate to.
Watch: Told Look Younger runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 4th July.