Peanut Pie, the first play to be performed by the new Amsterdam-based English language theatre company Strike Me Pink Productions, bills itself as a ‘queer tragi-comedy.’ What this means in practice is that it contains lots of tearful monologues and lots of puns relating to characters’ genitalia.
Who are these characters? Ralph Remers – also the play’s writer– casts himself in the role of Stephen Thomas, an affluent and recently married young man who, when we initially encounter him, is struggling to conceal a homosexual affair from his wife Anna. Deprived by her husband of both physical and emotional affection, Anna’s demeanour is one of ersatz English cheerfulness; actor Emilia Moscovich does a good job of making the character appear perpetually on the edge of a nervous breakdown. The man with whom Stephen is conducting his affair is called James (played by Harun Balci), an eccentric thespian with an inevitable taste for all things French: the cheese, the music, Jean Genet.
Some context. Peanut Pie is set in London in the late forties, approximately two decades before the government of the United Kingdom made the decision to decriminalise homosexuality. To be an ‘invert’ is understood by the society of this period as a mental illness not dissimilar to schizophrenia – sufferers of which, a psychiatrist in the second half of the play informs us, often exhibit homosexual tendencies. The tragedy of Peanut Pie derives chiefly from its characters being netted within this historical moment, with the play serving as a representation of how easily a life can be disfigured by a person being forced to suppress an essential part of their identity.
The most successful scenes in Peanut Pie are its most naturalistic ones, the ones where you there isn’t an attempted epigram or an awkward innuendo obscuring the tenderness that you can feel radiating from the Stephen and James’ relationship. ‘Say something,’ Stephen demands, seconds after revealing to James that Anna is now pregnant with a child. Why? I found myself wondering in the audience. Nothing he is going to say could possibly match the devastation on his face. Jacob John Shale 27th May 2022