LOOKING FOR JOHN at the Birmingham Rep

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Tony Timberlake’s Looking for John is an in-depth look at the unsung local sporting legend, John Curry. Timberlake explores Curry’s life not only as an Olympic champion but also as one of the first openly gay man in the public eye and how that has affected his legacy. Drawing from real life interviews with people who knew John, this piece stands as a homage to an incredible yet difficult man.

Timberlake’s writing borders on the genius using a mixture of interviews and his own personal memories of John, he creates an interwoven story of their lives and how Timberlake looked up to John as almost an idol figure.

Not only has Timberlake written this piece, he also stars as himself (and all the other characters). He manoeuvres through the many different characters with such ease and clarity that it makes it easy for the audience to keep up. Timberlake, as himself, brings a unique quality to this piece; it almost feels as the audience are having a conversation with Timberlake rather than it being a performance. This instils the idea that the play is a personal exploration for Timberlake as himself and his own ideas of sexuality, gender and legacy. Personally, I felt this could border on the awkward at some stages as it almost felt too personal as if the audience were invading The writer’s own life. However, this brought an emotional aspect that can only be achieved by a performer using their experiences into a production.

Personally, I felt the element that brought the whole piece to life were the videos and pictures of John Curry that were played through-out the piece, almost as reminder to the audience, this is who he was and this is why we have created this piece. With no lavish costumes or set, this show could be called simple; however with the excellent lightening design from Simon Bond the space almost feels as though it comes alive with John and Tony’s story.

Looking for John introduces John Curry to a new audience of people that aren’t necessarily aware of him before the production. Portraying John not as this perfect sporting and theatre hero, but as a difficult man with many flaws but who fought for how he wanted to live his life. Yet this production also brings with it an air of sadness because the question that the audience were left asking is why have we not celebrated John Curry’s incredibly moving life?    ★★★★☆    Georgina Randall   17th November 2016