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Edinburgh Fringe 2023


HFH Productions

Genre: Theatre

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

A taut two hander about male friendship, sexuality and power, Bacon tells a story of the perilous journey from boyhood to manhood.


It’s Mark’s first day at a new secondary school. A geeky outsider who finds it hard to make friends, Mark is drawn into the ambit of Darren, who’s also an outsider but for very different reasons. Darren is loud, shouty and defiant, often suspended from school and too scary to be friends with. Yet somehow, Mark and Darren forge an edgy friendship with an uneasy power dynamic that swings from warmth to threat in an instant. Bacon moves along at a pace, initially peppered with humour and insight turning on a knife edge to an altogether darker place.

The two boys appear so different on the surface but their shared isolation from their peers pulls them together into friendship and sexual experimentation. Here their differences in class and family lead to very different consequences for them both. Corey Montague-Sholay and William Robinson’s performances as Mark and Darren respectively are powerful, building an intense and ultimately toxic relationship. Corey Montague-Sholay plays the nerdy Mark with sensitivity and underplayed humour, while William Robinson portrays Darren with a convincing air of menace that nonetheless contains an underlying vulnerability.  

The deceptively simple set (Natalie Johnson) of a concrete-looking see-saw highlights the fluctuating power balance between Mark and Darren, and allows them to face each other off, upend the power balance and squeeze past each other in sizzling moments of closeness. The actors’ movements are skilfully choreographed to reflect and echo each other, giving the play an arresting physicality.

This is a sensitively put together production: script, set, movement and direction complement each other to highlight its mirror image binaries. Sophie Swithinbank’s excellent script balances the two boys’ perspectives swinging from Mark to Darren, never allowing us to slip into a too easy sympathy with one over the other. The play’s initial gag cracking provides a sympathetic and nuanced introduction to Mark and Darren, which enables a more empathetic response as Bacon enters more difficult territory. Matthew Iliffe’s superb direction keeps the play pacey and taut handling its move to darker territory with sensitivity. 

“This is my story”, Mark tells us, “it’s also his”. It’s a masterpiece in telling the untold story about the challenges of identity and sexuality that boys can face as they move with dizzy, unthinking excitement from boyhood to manhood. 

Before Edinburgh, the production completed a successful run at London’s Riverside Studios as part of the Bitesize Festival. After its run at Summerhall, Bacon is heading to Bristol Old Vic from 12-16 September.