Denton and Me
Perceptive, poignant solo show on gay life in the 1940s and today
With its tassled chintz table lamp, echoey opera soundtrack and potted spider plants, Sam Rowe's evocative Denton and Me plunges us straight into the uptight 1940s world of Denton Welch, effete, self-obsessed, needy, permanently bitter and disappointed in romance – and also the writer of some of the most candid, subversive, beautifully expressed journals of gay love in the 20th century. When a family friend suggests that Rowe might find Welch's diaries illuminating, the Glasgow-based writer / actor starts to discover telling parallels with his own life and loves, until, over the course of his thoughtful 75-minute solo show, it becomes increasingly hard to tell their two stories apart.
Although Nicholas Bone's assured direction keeps everything exquisitely elegant, there's a lot going on in Rowe's highly intelligent piece. With its extensive use of Welch's journal entries, it's an expose of repressed same-sex love in wartime England, but also Rowe's personal account of struggling to find a fulfilling role as a young gay man in 21st-century London, where anything and everything goes. But even beyond its ruminations on homosexuality and prejudice, it dares to ask difficult questions about loneliness, and whether we can ever be truly satisfied with a partner.
It's a slow-moving, introspective show whose emotional power takes some time to build, and it's easy to become frustrated with both Welch and Rowe's navel-gazing. But by its quiet yet highly perceptive conclusion, Denton and Me hits home with surprising strength.
Summerhall, until 28 Aug, 3.05pm, £12 (£10).