It’s always pretty exciting to see new work, and a first play by a neophyte playwright.
Joshua, a posh but poor aspirant writer (Jojo Macari), seeks to create a closer relationship with his great-uncle Napier, a bed-ridden ex-social butterfly and fading beauty shut up in his country mansion and living only through reminiscences of his past success amongst the social and artistic elite, as well as his raunchy liaisons with French sailors in Marseilles. Napier’s penchant for rough trade is shared with Joshua, who has a builder’s mate boyfriend Damien (Denholm Spurr) - shared quite literally as the bed-ridden Napier nevertheless craftily manages to put the moves on Damien.
There is good material in Tattooed Sailor, and an intriguing premise, but I felt the writing could have benefitted from further work editing and refining purpose and dramatic direction. I sense a number of unresolved issues in the writer’s emotional responses to these autobiographical events, which sadly accrue around the leading character Joshua, the cornerstone of the entire play: weaknesses in the construction of this character impact the whole piece. Macari struggles manfully with this underwritten and confused role.
Bernard O’Sullivan and Nick Finegan are evocative, stylish and affecting as the older and younger Napiers - Finegan especially evokes the authentic note of a 1930s Bohemian dandy and rake and contrasts pleasingly with the more contemporary Joshua and Damien. Denholm Spurr exudes an effortless animal sensuality and displays rampant sexual chemistry with all three of the other leads - in French too as the titular tattooed sailor in a tryst with the younger Napier.
Overall, this play held my attention and I did enjoy the experience, with the caveat that I ended with feeling a much stronger play is hidden deep within.