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Over a two day period a series of interconnected events impact a disparate group of Londoners.
Occasionally brilliant, often shocking and ultimately depressing exploration of contemporary urban gay sexuality and the resultant array of societal attitudes across age and class. In part influenced by the horrendously brutal murder of Jody Dobrowski on Clapham Common in 2005, Elyot creates a host of deeply unpleasant characters as the main focus of his exploration into homosexuality, its surface acceptance and ever-present homophobia across all social strata's today.
Whilst astonishingly frank in its depiction of casual, anonymous sexual encounters in public toilets and open spaces (Clapham Common, Hamstead Heath) and the contrast between being 'out' versus being closeted and covert, Elyot falls back on the clichéd and contrived device of 'the dinner party' to enable a host of views to bubble up to the surface. Perhaps it's the environment Elyot knows best so finds it easiest to write about, but it's still hard to gauge what his intention is with his moneyed and privileged group of diners are they intended as a representation of middle class views and behaviours? In addition, why is practically every character either unpleasantly selfish or irritatingly naïve? It may well be that the well-heeled dinner party set do have these views and opinions, but if they are so singularly unpleasant, how can we care? It's difficult to determine exactly what Elyot is trying to say with Clapham Junction that homophobia is still real and in consequence very dangerous? That the general view is that gay men can be universally accepted but only if they behave like the wealthy, urban, heterosexual upper middle-classes? That heterosexual people don't have any kind of secretive, covert sex life? No, straight people don't go cruising for anonymous sex in toilets or parks, but that's only because they don't need to.
Elyot paints a deeply depressing picture in Clapham Junction, which may in part reflect the truth, but he fails to find any counterpoint. All is bleak, all is dangerous - hatred, bigotry and prejudice prevail. The minor strand of the young black boy playing his violin in the face of intolerance and persecution only serves to crack the nut with a hammer
we've already learnt that it takes bravery to be who you are in the
face of adversity (witness the deeply unsettling, painfully honest encounter between Theo and Tim), so why bludgeon the viewer with this message a second time? The closing scene is gratuitous in light of all we have witnessed before.
Shergold and Elyot are well served by their actors, with Treadaway and Mawle in particular offering spectacularly honest, real and brave performances their plot-strand is perhaps the most challenging, the most unsettling but ultimately the most truthful story, and this time the concluding lack of hope is in proportion and understandable.
Moments of brilliance then, from all involved, but in the end Clapham Junction is deeply flawed and devoid of any shred of hope. Is that all there is?
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