Venus as a Boy
Of rent boys and angels
This article is from 2007.
In this intriguing and highly emotional adaptation of Luke Sutherland’s award winning novel, adaptor and actor Tam Dean Burn plays a dying rent boy who claims he is turning to gold. Burn, accompanied by Sutherland, who provides a riveting electrical score live on stage, takes us back to his character’s Orkney origins. There his alienated rural upbringing recedes upon his meeting an exotic Eastern European childhood girlfriend. His love for the girl is shattered by a sexual assault by local thugs, and he moves on to an earthier local girl, who becomes one of a string of emotional departures that leads our protagonist eventually to London, male prostitution, violence and the beginnings of a sex change.
But this is the bare bones of a story seamed through with emotional and spiritual truth. The trick of the piece, which is played so well, is its mix of earthy and everyday language, masterfully delivered by Burn, with entire departures from the real, into a world of Blakean angels and visions of gnosticism. Through the character’s polymorphous sexuality we reach a transcendence of the physical world into another place, more comfortable and forgiving than the harsh realities of the known world of brutality and emotional and political fascism. Burn is towering in this role, making physical shifts from child to adult and on to angel with deftness and sensitivity. As strong a night of theatre as you’re likely to see this Festival.
Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, until 26 Aug (not 13, 20), times vary, £14 (£5–£10).