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Close Enough to Touch | Theatre 503

In a world where subtlety and metaphors are increasingly common in telling the hardest

stories, Henry Roberts opts for the uncensored reality in his writing approach with Close Enough to Touch. We are eased in with an opening about an awkward job interview where actor Ross Barbour feels underprepared and follows online advice to get the best out of this experience, such as cracking a joke which is met with silence by the implied panel. Roberts' writing creates a fun, relatable tone from the outset and impressively carries it throughout.

Following the lacklustre interview, Barbour heads to the public toilets at Waterloo station with the intention of finding secret pleasure with other men. However, the next scene reveals that he is in a loving 7-year relationship with a woman named Steph. This one-person play explores the complexities of a man balancing his love for his partner with the questions he has over what his sexuality means to him. As he put it himself: the truth is complicated. Barbour cleverly uses the opening 10 minutes, when the audience are most engaged, to dictate the tone, pace and stakes of the piece. He continues to build on the established sturdy foundations to develop a performance that leaves the audience asking questions and, consequently, forming their own opinions.

There is a clear shift of the production’s mood as we dive deeper into the world we were so

humorously introduced to. The plot is carefully navigated, and Roberts' writing does an exceptional job of knowing exactly what the audience wants and when they want it. Is it time for a light- hearted scene with some witty remarks? Let’s introduce the parents. Are we fading out of the world we have been so deeply invested in? Let’s raise the stakes. Nothing felt out of place and that is a credit to the intelligent storytelling.

Throughout the show, he is constantly questioning himself, Steph’s love for him, and other factors in the world that surrounds him. There is a sense of empathy within the audience as the lights go down and we are left to contemplate everything we have just observed. It is nearly impossible to completely understand what he has been going through his entire life but Barbour does such an excellent job of bringing Steph to life, that we cannot help but also feel bad for her too.

Roberts creates a fully populated world which challenges Barbour, with bringing all of these bodies to life. Not only are we introduced to those close to him, such as Steph and his

parents, but we meet a host of characters throughout his journey, some more forgettable

than others. In fact, of these nameless additions, it is the ones we wish to forget who leave

the strongest impressions. Every time we are brought back into one of the various public

lavatories, the experience gets equally more detailed and scarring. Maybe the former is a

repercussion of the latter, but the pain and fear behind his eyes goes a long way to making it

all feel real. It is a testament to their acting ability for one person to convey such vivid

imagery under the pressure of live performance.

Close Enough to Touch unravels a world that most may not even know exists and delivers

brilliantly. We flowed with the emotions of the piece and were involved in Roberts’ creation

where the stakes felt almost as important to us as they were to him.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by


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