MiniReview: "The York Realist" by Peter Gill

Stephanie Fayerman as Mother and Stephen Hagan as George in a 2009 revival of the play at the Riverside Studios in London.

What is it?

It’s a play by Welsh playwright Peter Gill, originally produced in Salford Quays, England, in 2001.


What’s it about?

A young gay farm labourer in 1960s Yorkshire gets involved with a theatre production in the city of York and finds a lover.


Sweet. But ... it sounds a bit slight as a premise for a play.

Yes, this is one of those curiously unassuming gay plays that stands in such contrast to, say, Angels in America or The Inheritance. It’s just a drama about a man and his lover and his family, with no great explosions.


So, like, why would this story be told? I mean, what’s the point?

I don’t really think there is a “point” as such. It’s an engaging, touching story. For me, the really outstanding thing it showed was the way families can sometimes sense that one of their members is queer, and accept it and make space for it, without ever talking about it. There is absolutely no family conflict here. It’s almost anti-drama! But that makes it very unusual, in its quietness and gentleness. It made me feel good about how people can be unobtrusively accepting, without having to be “out and loud and proud” about it. As with the other Gill play I reviewed, The York Realist portrays another way of being gay, one we don’t necessarily see much in theatre.

          The only real conflict in the play is between George, the farm labourer who likes his quiet rural life, and John, his lover, who lives in London and is, one assumes, probably surrounded by a gay community of sorts (but an “underground” one, as this is the 1960s and homosexuality was still a crime).



One. This is a beautifully written little drama, a good read. It doesn’t overtly deal with the nature of being gay, or with gay issues as such. It’s just a subtle, bittersweet love story involving two guys.

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