“Heart” is an exploration of the multifaceted prism that is being gay in London. It’s a journey marked by laughter, confusion, and tears that are as diverse as the city itself. Reece Lewis’s writing debut is undoubtedly marked by promise, though the journey might benefit from a more concise path. While not without its flaws, “Heart” echoes the vibrancy of a community searching for love, acceptance, and the kaleidoscope of emotions that come with it.
“Heart: A love letter to all the gay men in London” is a theatrical voyage that takes you on a ride through the colourful tapestry of a young gay man’s life in 2023. Written and performed by the talented Reece Lewis, this monologue invites you into the heart of 24-year-old Tyler. Here, the quest for love and acceptance is illuminated against the backdrop of modern dating dilemmas.
We follow Tyler as he doesn’t just try to find a partner via the usual suspects, like picking up people in a bar or swiping on dating apps. Tyler is also letting us inside his complicated gallery of family relationships, from the lovely scene of coming out to his mom, through harsh, almost aggressive relations with his dad.
It’s very much a story that potentially could happen to many gay people in London. Its realism can be a trigger to some of the people in the audience, so please make sure to read the warnings and triggers info before entering the auditorium.
Lewis’s performance is a magnetic force that holds the audience captive for a 1.5-hour exploration of Tyler’s experiences. My favourite scene showcased the swiping frenzy on a dating app, injecting rap-like rhythm and free-flowing comments into the seemingly static moment. This was highlighted using energetic movement throughout. The energy during this sequence reached astronomical heights, authentically humorous and genuinely relatable. And generally, the stage movement in the show was one of the best ones I’ve seen in a fringe show in a long time.
However, expectations can be deceiving, as “Heart” unfolds unexpectedly. Initiated with a lighthearted façade, the show ventures into a darker, weightier dimension as it progresses. Similarly to a surprising plot turn seen in Bollywood movies, the story changes into a serious family drama. Many strong feelings come up, like the discovery of a troubled father and the presence of a significant cancer theme. The change in structure could be viewed as two distinct plays connected by a small link. It might benefit from an intermission to give each part more space. Alternatively, there might be enough material for two separate shows, which could also potentially work better. The plot’s development also made me question the show’s title relevance to the story – it didn’t fully seem like a proper match between the two.
“Heart” starts as a linear story, but turns less time-dependent as time progresses. The timeline’s occasional jumps add more energy, but also make things unclear (at least for me). While Lewis brings great energy to the stage, there are times when the storytelling isn’t as clear as it should be, creating gaps in the story. Example: questions arise about Taylor’s Prince Charming – is he the same closeted man mentioned in the first part of the show? Still, when Lewis brings his on-stage charm, the story gets exciting again, with multiple rainbow-themed costume changes and props adding to the lively performance on the small Baron’s Court Theatre stage.
Light and sound design are executed 10/10 and blend smoothly, touching the play’s shape and taking the audience through different times and feelings (and even scents – appreciate a little touch with various smells too). The creative team’s skill is clear, especially in a venue that tends to be tricky for tech design. My only issue was with cigarettes smoked on stage. They were unnecessary for a small, slowly ventilated venue like this one, especially with front rows being located just centimetres away from the performer.
*I received the ticket in exchange for an honest review of the show
Heart by Reece Lewis
8 – 19 August 2023, 7.30 pm
Baron’s Court Theatre London – get tickets here