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HE WEARS IT WELL [Edinburgh Fringe]

Written By:

Anne Fortune
2023HEWEARS_CEL

by Anne-Louise Fortune

He Wears It Well from Pin Theatre Collective tells the tale of two men from very different worlds. They meet, flirt, form a relationship and have to deal with the implications of their private selves versus their public lives. 

Stephen is a massive geek. He works in video games, enjoys fanfiction, and both plays Dungeons & Dragons, and acts as a Dungeon Master for his friends. Archie is a Premier League Footballer. They meet when Stephen’s company is designing a highly interactive football game, that requires the players to be 3D-scanned. Flirting ensues, but as there are no ‘out’ Premier League footballers, Stephen doesn’t realise that this is what’s happening. 

Eventually, Archie, who has a surprising knowledge of popular culture, manages to get Stephen to realise the truth, and a tentative relationship develops. Archie however is under incredible pressure from his agent to be masculine, successful – and straight. The agent thinks he might be able to help Archie come out, but only very slowly, and in several months’ time – just after this season ends. Not today, but maybe eventually – when it’s more convenient for everyone who has a vested financial interest.

As Archie and Stephen’s relationship develops, they bond over what turns out to be a shared love of fantasy films – they watch the extended versions of all three Lord of the Rings films back-to-back. Later, they get very involved in a D&D campaign. As is often common with D&D, Archie uses the roleplaying as an avenue to explore who he is. Both men achieve happy endings in the story, in their personal stories, as well as within their narrative as a couple. 

This is an important story, touching on how any relationship negotiates the developing bonds between two people, especially when they have external factors pressuring them to behave in ways that prevent them from living truthfully. At one point the script provides an immensely insightful line about how happiness is always portrayed in films, on TV, and in books, as being Straight – queer people have rarely been allowed to observe happiness within popular culture. 

There is an awful lot to admire here – the choreography of the scene changes has obviously been carefully worked through, and the tiny performance space available manages not to feel too cramped due to clever decisions about how to deliver the piece to the audience. As well as being heartfelt, there are also some very funny moments, especially as the character of Stephen has a sense of humour drier than the Gobi Desert. 

We do think that this might be a production which has changed significantly since the information about it would have had to have been submitted to the Fringe Society several months ago – certainly, the programme listing doesn’t seem to quite match what we saw performed. This is however a strong story, well-delivered by Nicky Cooper (Stephen) and Luke Hewitt (Archie), who also excel at the on-stage quick costume change. 

Possibly a further revision of the script, and maybe adding a third actor to play the other roles would lead to a more even pace throughout the piece. Even so, in its current form, this is a delightful, warm piece of theatre, with an important message about embracing your own identity.

stars

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