Kathrine Smith crafts a powerful, moving and tender tribute in ALL I SEE IS YOU, a rollercoaster story of forbidden love

ALL I SEE IS YOU at Bolton Octagon Theatre

Kathrine Smith crafts a powerful, moving and tender story of forbidden love in ALL I SEE IS YOU

2018 marks Bolton’s Octagon Theatre’s 50th anniversary year. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality. So when Kathrine Smith’s powerful drama about a gay couple in the 1960s crossed the desk of the Octagon National Prize judges, it’s easy to see why they picked it as a winner.

Inspired by real accounts of queer life from fifty years ago, ALL I SEE IS YOU tells the story of Bobby and Ralph, two men who meet at a gay bar in 1960s Bolton. Bobby works on Woolies’ record counter while Ralph dreams of being a teacher. One kiss and they’re hooked, but this is 1967 and their love is illegal. Can Bobby and Ralph overcome their own demons and find a way of being together or will society tear them – and their lives – apart forever?

Heart-warming, heart-wrenching and heart-breaking all at the same time, ALL I SEE IS YOU is a powerful roller-coaster love story about forbidden love. Stripping the play right back to focus in on the characters, Director Ben Occhipinti brings out every nuance of Smith’s powerful, honest and surprisingly funny script, shedding light on this dark part of Britain’s history.

With just a bench and two stools for company on stage, the spotlight is very much on Christian Edwards and Ciaran Griffiths who bring warmth and vulnerability to their characters. Despite being drawn to one another, Ralph and Bobby deal with their sexuality very differently.

ALL I SEE IS YOU at Bolton Octagon Theatre

As the first in his family to go to university, Edwards’ Ralph is cautious, careful and realistic, feeling the heavy burden of his feelings towards Bobby as well as their aspirations to stay together as a couple. In sharp contrast, Griffiths’ Bobby is optimistic, headstrong and proud, and once he accepts he’s gay, finds it impossible to hide who he is. The result is a rollercoaster love story that is both powerful, moving and tender.

As Bobby and Ralph’s story takes a turn for the worse, Smith also isn’t afraid to shy away from the harsh injustices of the time. From the degrading treatment by the authorities at the Police station to the invasive ‘treatments’ the men were forced to endure to ‘cure’ them of their sexuality, this honest and powerful piece of new writing goes straight for the heart, as Bobby and Ralph’s story quickly turns from heart-warming to heart-breaking.

But what makes ALL I SEE IS YOU truly special is that it’s not just a play about love overcoming prejudice, but is also one of hope, courage and self-acceptance. Here, Smith crafts a moving and uplifting tribute to all those who had the spirit and courage to overcome bigotry, defy society and be their true selves – one which you can’t help but champion and get caught up in.

4 out of 5 stars

ALL I SEE IS YOU runs at Octagon Theatre, Bolton until 14 April 2018