Bacon – A Tragic Relationship Masterfully Played

Two young men sit at either end of a thick seesaw. Mark (Corey Montague-Sholay) looks forward, his feet dangling. Darren (William Robinson) focuses on Mark. His feet are planted on the stage floor. What relationship can’t be seen through the lens of a balance of power? Add burgeoning confusion about sexuality and tipping points become less secure.

The sound of static. Is it static? Weather? No, the quiet sizzle of a grill. We’re in a UK café. “This is my story and I’ve never told it to anyone before…” Mark tells us. “Some of the story’s about me because I’m sick and Mark’s a pussy,” Darren adds. We shift back and forth from today in the café, four years after meeting, and the origin of a trajectory that leads to grievous damage.

Carey Montague-Sholay (Mark) and William Robinson (Darren)

It’s 15 year-old Mark’s first day at a local Catholic school. He’s a good student, a good boy; quiet. His “mum” doesn’t know the place is not up to her standards. There are boys watching porn, boys smoking. Across a room, the teenager feels Darren’s stare. “It’s like he knows me. That side of my face feels as if it’s been slapped.” Darren comes from a bad home situation. He’s in a constant state of cruel, provocative, angry rebellion and repeatedly suspended. He carries a knife.

Oil and water one might think, but the boys recognize each other. This doesn’t mean establishment of anything close to what we think of as friendship. Darren baits and toys with Mark as if he were cornered prey. Mark is calm and smart, not a milquetoast, yet though suffering, he’s inexorably drawn. Underlying sexual tension oozes like lava. Darren burns. He struggles against fear and inbred norms- finally erupting.

Playwright Sophie Swithinbank creates two whole, credible characters. Visceral tension is unremitting;  flare-ups wretched and realistic. The play’s arc is deft, language direct and economic. A riveting piece of theater.

William Robinson (Darren) and Carey Montague-Sholay (Mark)

Director Matthew Iliffe uses the long, narrow seesaw as effectively as if it were a full stage. Mark and Darren stand, kneel, lay, crawl, connect and jerk apart as if like magnetic poles – never without emotional provocation, always further defining the push/pull situation. Timing is impeccable.

Both actors are outstanding. There isn’t a second when attributes fray. Chemistry is pronounced. It’s easy to picture both Corey Montague-Sholay and William Robinson performing Shakespeare.

Natalie Johnson’s set concept is as wonderful as its heavy execution. Marvelous lighting (Ryan Joseph Stafford) appears ominous, often like a wound or blow. Sound design (Mwen) is subtle and immensely effective.

William Robinson (Darren) and Carey Montague-Sholay (Mark)

A call out is due to both Voice Coach Frankie Aaronovitch-Bruce for two, pristine and clearly differentiated accents and to Fight and Intimacy Director Jess Tucker Boyd for evoking palpable desire and sudden violence.

Photos by Ali Wright

Bacon by Sophie Swithinbank
Directed by Matthew Ilffe
First produced by Salt Lick Productions Limited at the Finborough Theatre, London 2022

Soho Playhouse
15 Van Dam Street
Through January 28, 2024

Watch the Trailer

About Alix Cohen (1775 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.