Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Wallace Norman’s impressive solo portrayal of the very different lives that two young friends grow up to lead, following years of brutal schooling and abuse by their Catholic priest choir master. A moving, truthful and illuminating drama that deserves to be widely seen.
William was a child who was a late developer. He and his hugely intelligent long term schoolfriend Matthew are dubbed the girly-boys by the macho students who mercilessly bully them, but sometimes they hilariously short circuit an attack with their intellectual superiority. Wallace Norman, who wrote and movingly performs this one man drama, portrays a huge range of characters believably and sensitively, without sensationalising the sharing of the horrific events the central narrator William endured. Particularly memorable are his portrayal of the school sports teacher, his best friend Matthew, Matthew’s mother and wife, and the elderly Brother James.
Following his joining of the church choir, and becoming an altar boy, encouraged by his parents, William soon becomes one of the many boys who is invited, alone, to Brother James, the choir master’s house, and is sexually abused. None of the boys tell. As they finally graduate from high school, William comes out to his best friend Matthew, who is destined for a stellar career in physics, who does not take the revelation well, and the two young men do not see each other for years. When they do meet again, they have very different lives, and the way they cope with their traumatic past is equally different, with devastating consequences for one of them. The aftermath unpacks in revealing detail, how those who survive and cope, manage to live lives worth living.
This is not a depressing play – it is a valuable, sensitive and measured portrayal of the devastation and life long aftershocks that such protracted abuse can create. It has a hopeful and realistic ending that enables the audience to understand how our behaviours and habits as adults, are shaped by our formative experiences, and helped me see how I should not rush to judgement on other people’s reactions to life events. We don’t know what their triggers are. Not a bad achievement for an hour long drama.
The day I saw this play, at the end of Edinburgh Fringe’s week 1, the audience was small. This hidden gem of a play deserves to be seen by a much wider audience, as a masterclass in solo drama and in handling potentially triggering subjects with truth, dignity, some fun, and with real humanity.