The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures or iHo review – A fiercely argued debate in a time of global crisis

A stunning, thought provoking and urgent family drama on a global scale

The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide

★★★★★ (UNMISSABLE)


The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures or iHo is a stunning new dysfunctional family drama by Tony Kushner.

The title of the play is inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s non-fiction book The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism and Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. The first examines socialist ideas from both a Marxist and non-Marxist perspective, the second is the central text of the Christian Science religion. This gives you some idea of the richness and complexity to the themes, the political arguments and intellectual debate in this operatic work.

Empty (Tamsin Greig) and Gus (David Calder) embrace their differences
Empty (Tamsin Greig) and Gus (David Calder) embrace their differences

In the best tradition of Arthur Miller’s great plays, iHo seems to debate an entire world and all of it’s problems via a small group of characters in a confined setting. The breadth and scope of the subject matter discussed in the 210 minutes running time is simply too much to debate here. But I was rapt, sitting forward in my seat and lapping up every syllable.

The script is due for publication later this year (a contact list being collated by the Hampstead Theatre to inform us enthusiasts of the date!) and I cannot wait to devour the text and further explore its multiple layers of meaning.

There are sequences in the play when a number of disparate conversations occur at the same time – a device that in the wrong hands could be annoying, distracting and confusing – but in Michael Boyd’s masterful production, it simply adds to the rawness of the dialogue and surprisingly focuses the attention even more sharply.

The ensemble is impeccable and it would be wrong to single out any individual actor. Every member of this cast gives an astonishing performance.

Dream team director Michael Boyd and writer Tony Kushner in rehearsal
Dream team director Michael Boyd and writer Tony Kushner in rehearsal

Some aspects of the production I found slightly at odds with the play. Tom Piper’s set, whilst perfectly functional and metaphorically right, felt somewhat clumsy and cold which at times emphasised Wolfgang Goebbel’s lighting changes slightly too much.

A Tony Kushner play always leaves me feeling intellectually inferior, emotionally wrought and incredibly stimulated. In 2017, the National Theatre is staging a major revival of his two part masterpiece Angels in America and I cannot urge you strongly enough to book your tickets the moment they are released.

  • At the Hampstead Theatre until 26 November 2016. Box office: +44 (0) 20 7722 9301

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