It is always refreshing to see a new take on an old theme, especially when the characters involved manage to shine through more clearly because of that new take. So with Sandel, I was impressed to find a play that told a story about three people’s love in circumstances where politics would normally get in the way, but are surprisingly held at bay.
Sandel is a stage adaptation of a 1960s novel by Angus Stewart that tells the story of a love affair between an Oxford college undergraduate, David Rogers, and a choirboy, Antony Sandel, with an intriguing subplot featuring Rogers’ friend Bruce, who is also in love with Rogers.
I suspect this script skims over some of the novel’s more intriguing moments, and while this treatment might be fine for film, I think there are some elements of the relationship between Rogers and Sandel that warranted a deeper exploration for the stage (by which I am suggesting a more courageous departure from the novel might have better represented the characters’ experiences). However, the performances delivered by Ashley Cousins and Joseph Lindoe certainly make the most of a solid script with witty dialogue.
Ashley Cousins’ voice was entirely appropriate for Sandel, though its high-pitched demands did start to grate by the end of the play. This, though, added to the climax that developed gently as the play progressed. This voice not only demanded the attention of Rogers; accompanied by the very rich characters drawn by all three performers, it held me in its grip and gave me that experience that makes theatre worthwhile; I had to know what was going to happen.
Sandel is a noteworthy play, mostly, I think, because it focuses solidly on the human experiences of its protagonists without excessive moralising or even legitimising. The legal and moral circumstances, though considered, are almost a side note to the depth of empathy the story elicits for its protagonists, and this is where it really stands out. I was enthralled throughout.
- Christopher Hong had as high an opinion of the set as I did.
- Everything Theatre thought it was good.
- SoSoGay were rather more enamoured of the script than I was.
- The British Theatre Guide were particularly fond of it as well.