A 2-part (total 7 hours. i saw it over 2 evenings) gay themed play that was (and still is) talk of London last year. Started in Young Vic then was transferred to West End. more official reviews than my humble opinion can be found here
Its sheer length over two nights is already an “attempt to be epic”, and even if it was not intentional, the play is still seen a lot as a current day update on “Angels in America” and presents itself as a “state of the current gay life” so to speak. First about the positive things. It is a large work, and compared to the average quality of gay-themed plays (which is average at best), Inheritance is not bad, and occasionally even good. It has some very touching moments, which did bring tears to my eyes, actors are very good. I enjoyed the framing device in Part 1 which draws on parallels with Howard’s End and its author (which however is one of the negatives I had as I’d prefer a play I can watch without having to do preliminary reading for). In Part 1 however some parallels with Howard’s End were there for no other purpose than just to reference the book. The play is also very often quite funny.
Now to the negatives. For a play that tries to be epic it is rather narrow focused on a very specific sub-culture of gay population of a very specific city and country. Everyone is very attractive, young, mostly white (non-white characters are extremely peripheral), male (many reviewers notes complete absence of women), and well-to-do (apart from the hustler character). And even the problems they face I found quite un-relatable. This is a very “rich-ish white gay New York guys” story.
I did not get any “feel” for what the main character’s character was like. What’s his deal? He was drawn very thinly in my opinion as a “generic nice guy” (who for some reason keeps getting money for free wherever he goes, hello rent controlled apartment and a millionaire fiancé and ultimately a huge house). Wasn’t that all convenient.
The “bad boy” of the story was a much more interesting person, and funny, but his story line was a bit too pre-determined by his past I think (traumatic childhood of course you are self-destructive and unable to love), and even though the way his storyline ends (no spoilers) is a bit of a melodramatic cliché, had it gone the other way it could have been cliché too.
Let’s go back to some positives. Rich guy. He has a complex character and is not a caricature. Not a total villain. He was given opinions and a voice to express them. Loved the jab at millennials! I also think play very well shows how deep the HIV scare damaged some people’s ability to be able to get close to others and even to love. On the other hand the play was a bit preachy towards some of his actions (“omg you use prostitutes; you are morally responsible for them!). I am not entirely on board with the way the play treats the whole sex-work thing. You can’t have it both ways. Either it is a choice and people who do it have agency and can take responsibility for their choices or they are victims to be helped. If you pay a prostitute and are an ethical client (i.e. you do it consensually and do not abuse them) – you are not responsible for their future in my opinion. One may claim that as humans we have an obligation to help people in similar situation to Leo’s (hustler in the play) – but again – you can’t save everyone, and your life is mostly your own responsibility. If you take drugs and fuck bareback – um, I guess you are likely to catch HIV. It sucks if you are 19 and yes I agree that some people are just get thrown too much of crap in life to them. But ultimately we are all responsible for our own lives.
All in all, I am not sure it succeeded as “current look at what is our generation of gays is going to leave behind” as in what is our “inheritance”. Quite a lot in the story was tied to money, house, and wealth. How about “we will just live our lives as boring as straight people, make same stupid mistakes as anyone else, fall in love, have hearts broken, marry, divorce, have children, raise good children, raise crappy children, choose not to have children, commit suicide, or live and grow old”….? There is nothing “exciting” about just being straight, is there. How about our inheritance being our right to be ordinary, so that being gay is no longer something to be “realised”, “discovered”, or being ashamed of, “come out” about, fight for, but neither it is something to be super-proud of, because it is simply a part of who you are and hopefully will become as un-remarkable thing about someone as being straight is now. I could live with such inheritance. It was worth seeing however.