Theatre: Easy Access (for the boys) Drill Hall, London

Easy Access (for the boys)

Drill Hall, London

Michael really loves his dad, which sounds a fairly blameless activity. You start to worry, though, when you see him up on screen interviewing the father for a video diary he's in the process of assembling. The camera moves down from the craggy paternal face to linger on the crotch. Michael is a "renter" (a bit past the stage where rent-"boy" would be an accurate trade description), so you would have thought that gazing on groins would hold zero charms for him when he's off duty.

Dad, however, is a special case. You could say he launched his child on this risky career. For, when they were deserted by the mother, when Michael was six, his nocturnal cuddles with his son got way, way out of hand. They became a habit - only for a while, on the father's side; the habit of a lifetime, on the son's. Abuse has warped Michael's sexuality, debased, for him, the currency of loving exchange.

At the centre of Easy Access (for the boys), the new play by Claire Dowie, there's a terrific performance by Jud Charlton as Michael. All wide, flirty grin and sexy, nervous restlessness, he starts off addressing the camera (and the theatre audience) with a defiance that already has a tremor of defensiveness in it. Why shouldn't he love his dad, he asks: why let something "as meaningless as sex" get in the way of that?

The play charts his increasingly obsessed journey to the realisation that he has been duped and damaged. By turns crudely diagrammatic and emotionally powerful, the piece, here directed by its author, has one or two excellent scenes, like the one where a dazed and angry Michael first perceives that his memories of their sexual relationship and its significance are on a woundingly higher plane of intensity than they are for his creepy, measured, still controlling father. The plot mechanism whereby these discoveries are made (Michael's jealousy of the younger woman and child who move in with the father, and his fears that either he or his dad will repeat the cycle of abuse on others) lacks skill in its construction. But the piece is shrewd about the emotional legacy of harm, and feelingly brings home to one that, in such situations, the child's concept of love, as well as his person, is heart-rendingly abused.

To 28 Feb. Booking: 0171 637 8270

Paul Taylor