Extra Virgin is extra intense and a powerful must-see.
The play starts in darkness, with an all-too real sex scene. It also features full frontal nudity and we’re definitely not complaining.
The laddish and older Elliot (Alexander Hulme) and twinky Noah (James Farley) are on a Grindr hookup – which by nature are usually unplanned and a unique experience shared between two strangers – but nothing could be further from the truth here.
The play escalates from pillow talk to Noah playing expertly with Elliot’s mind, until Elliot reaches breaking point.
‘It may be triggering or uncomfortable’
Hulme acts exceptionally well and portrays a mixed bag of emotions in a way that is believable and cultivating to the audience. It really sucks you into the play’s emotional vacuum.
The story contains twists and surprises right until the end, which gets you through the slower parts of the play. There were moments in the beginning when you were left wanting more from the performance, but this is salvaged by a dramatic and well-performed second half of the play.
The narrative is a slow burner. Though saying that, both actors exchange comedic and relatable dialogue, leaving us laughing and nostalgic of our own sexual experiences.
The play’s title of Extra Virgin doesn’t give much away about the true nature of this seemingly light production. But a note to some viewers: it may be triggering or uncomfortable as it touches on topics of violence, sexual abuse and rape.
Farley adds a boyish charm to his character, giving the character the vulnerability it needs, while also appearing borderline sociopathic.
On preparing for playing his emotional role, Farley told Gay Star News: ‘As a young gay man myself, I am very similar to Noah. There wasn’t much to research. I decided I could bring the character to myself.
‘I’ve found an actor only needs two qualities to play characters in extreme situations like this: Imagination and Empathy. If you like lack in one you can make up for with the other.”
‘If you come to see Extra Virgin, make sure your phone is off as the play relies on its silence and tension!’
That it does James, that it does.
Extra Virgin runs until 10 February 2019 at the Above the Stag Theatre, Vauxhall. Tickets on sale here.