Among the plethora of plays and performances on offer at this year’s Mardi Gras, the team behind two-hander Staircase have managed to stand out from the pack with what may be the gayest programming choice of the whole festival: a play staged in a hairdressing salon on Oxford St.
“It gives the play a bit more immediacy I suppose, although I must stress that we do not give haircuts during the performance,” laughed actor David Goddard of the decision to stage Staircase in the Christopher Hanna Hair Salon.
“The only problem is we’re directly opposite the Colombian Hotel, so we’re hoping our audiences don’t disappear for a drink at interval or we’ll have to drag them back across Oxford St.”
Written by Christopher Dyer in the late 1960s, Staircase enjoyed brief success as a film starring Richard Burton and Rex Harrison in 1969, before disappearing from public view for some 40 years.
“I don’t think it’s been done anywhere since the 60s, which is quite strange because it’s a wonderful bittersweet black comedy. It’s a two-hander about two ageing gay gents who’ve been together for some time,” Goddard said.
“When you meet them, my character, Charles, is waiting for a summons to appear in court for… uh… being naughty,” he said coyly.
“It’s really a play about who we are, what we stand for. Of course, a lot has happened in the gay world since the mid-60s, but a fair amount is still relevant.”
Restaged for a 21st century audience, the play also provides a valuable glimpse of how far we’ve come since the days when gay sex was an arrestable offence.
“There is definitely an element of showing how far we’ve come — that Charlie could be arrested at that time for doing something that barely rates a mention today.”
Goddard’s character spends his days working in London hairdressing salon Chez Harry with his companion and salon owner, Harry, played by Michael Barnacoat.
Barnacoat offered one explanation as to why Staircase had faded from view since it was first written.
“There have been a lot of plays since that have dealt with similar issues around sexuality, but never in quite the same angle as this one. Staircase got kind of smothered, I think, by all the works that came after it.
“At that particular time back in the 60s, I think the play was considered very cutting-edge in raising a lot of these gay issues. I still think it’s extremely relevant today, mainly from the point of view of the relationship between two gay people, and how they conduct that.”
info: Staircase plays at the Christopher Hanna Hair Salon, 88 Oxford St, from February 26-March 14. Visit www.staircasetheplay.com