I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Lion Theatre Company’s If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You. Cocaine? Definitely. Could guess there was something about a roof. And I knew it was about two gay teenage boys, Mikey (George Tarling) and Casey (Tom Cain), struggling to deal with their feelings for each other. But apart from that I really had no idea about what I was going to see. However, after watching this production, I can honestly say it is one of the most touching shows I’ve ever seen put on in Durham, and also one that demonstrates an exceptional level of talent from both the production team and cast.
Alington House provides the perfect setting. It’s small and intimate, which is absolutely crucial for this type of play. A string of blue lights and leaves are the only border between the stage and the audience, adding to the immersive effect. There’s also a great chimney, which I know from following the LTC Instagram was DIY-ed by Producer Cait Mahoney and Assistant Producer Niamh Mcerlean, so a big shout-out to them.
This set-up would all be null and void of course, if it wasn’t for the incredible acting done by George Tarling and Tom Cain. From the moment the play begins, the pace is there, and it creates an electric atmosphere. Anyone who has ever acted knows how difficult it is to bounce off lines from just one person, but Tarling and Cain do it with ease. They should be credited not only for remembering their lines, but for never allowing a lull in the action which, with lesser actors, could easily have happened.
The naturalism both of them achieve in their acting is very impressive. Tarling’s Irish accent is flawless (unless he’s actually Irish… I have no idea, it’s that good). The way that he channels the sarcastic, endearing but also sometimes controlling Mikey connects perfectly with Cain’s more vulnerable character. Cain has some really touching moments throughout the piece, with his poetic monologue about the sunset of Croydon being a definite highlight of the night. But overall it is the relationship between the two that shines through. There’s a lot of humour in the lines, but it is the realistic ease in the delivery that makes them funny – not once in the night did I feel like the actors were looking for laughs.
Praise needs to go to the direction as well. Director Francesca Davies-Cáceres and Assistant Director Lily Britton have orchestrated the action extremely well, consistently referencing the sexual tension between the two characters and allowing it to build as the piece develops. It never feels forced as it is placed at just the right moments, and the result is delightfully infuriating. ‘KISS’ I wrote in my notebook, and underlined twice, shortly followed by ‘I’m so frustrated.’ The skirting around, aided by John O’Donovan’s beautiful script, is exasperating to watch and also deeply sad, with the knowledge that this relationship, like many others, is doomed due to other people’s prejudice. The message of the play shines through the action, and that’s when you know you’ve done it well.
The tech really enhances certain moments too. Technical Director James Goodall’s blast of white light every time Mikey takes cocaine is a really nice and creative touch. Overall the lighting and sound is minimal, but this means it has more of an impact on the audience when it is used, such as the intermittent police sirens which set us on edge. I was sometimes concerned about the scenes where Tarling and Cain lie on the floor. The shadows of the audience members mean that the actors’ faces are partially not lit, and this possibly obscures the view too much for those not sitting in the front row. This issue is only predominant in the very beginning of the show however, and it never impacts any of the big moments of the piece.
If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You is a beautiful, humorous, and frustratingly tragic piece which I enjoyed a lot. Perhaps my only real criticism is that I would have liked more cocaine. I very much hope this is resolved at the afterparty.