Theatre hottie of the month: September
Review: the smutty, energetic and chaotic Measure for Measure, Young Vic theatre

Review: Teddy Ferrara, Donmar Warehouse

Teddy-FerraraChristopher Shinn's American university campus play, Teddy Ferrara, is based on real events but that is a hook for a far more meatier and complex play.

Gabe (Luke Newberry) is in his final year and is chair of the LGBT student group, his best friend Tim (Nathan Wiley) is straight but his new boyfriend Drew (Oliver Johnston) doesn't believe it. And then there is Teddy (Ryan McParland), the softly spoken, strange, loner who spends rather a lot of time in online gay chat rooms.

When rumours start circulating that a popular student who committed suicide was closet gay the President of the university (Matthew Marsh) is persuaded he should do something to address prejudice and homophobia on campus.

Weaving threads of the politics of LGBT issues with social and emotional issues there is a lot going on beneath the surface of this play.

The president is out of his comfort zone when forced to confront LGBT issues to protect the reputation of the university. He's looking for a simple, one-size-fits-all solution.  Give him a spade and watch him dig himself into hole at a student-staff meeting, it is funny and cringe-worthy at the same time and a brilliant performance by Matthew Marsh.

Where the play gets really interesting is with the students. There are no simple, easy to understand characters here. Instead Shinn beautiful demonstrates the complexity of human relationships, the individuality, differences, the attitudes and needs.

Gabe is popular. He's confident, loyal, well-intentioned and ambitious but finds emotional commitment scary, internalising so much he often misses what's going on in front of him.

Drew has trust issues after a previous bad experience. His is perhaps the most interesting character arc as his layers are peeled away your perception of him is challenged. Is he right about Tim or is that more to do with his own feelings and preferences?

Teddy is quiet and says the sort of things that make those around him feel awkward. When he's online he has more confidence and has a popularity of sorts but it comes at a price.

Shinn's play raises lots of questions and leaves you to debate the answers. There is no one size fits all solution to equality, to creating a tolerant and prejudice-free environment as needs and preferences vary as wildly as the sexual and romantic preferences of the different characters. It is a play you have to step back from and think about for a while because there is so much going on and not all of it is immediately obvious. It is a play that surprises, challenges and haunts.

You can catch it at the Donmar Warehouse until 5 December and it is two hours and 40 minutes.


Matthew Marsh was in The Last of the Haussman's with the wonderful eye-liner wearing Rory Kinnear who has worked with Mr W lots (Hamlet, Skyfall, Richard II, Spectre)