What could be more fitting than watching a play on campus concerning the life and works of one our University’s most revered alumni, D.H. Lawrence. Controversial in its essence, the play revolves around the auctioning off of Lawrence’s notoriously banned paintings by the very man who is thought to be Lawrence’s inspiration behind Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Still officially prohibited from being publicly displayed in Britain, projections of these paintings create the backdrop throughout most of the play, adding intrigue and expectation to this potentially illicit comedy.
Just A Gigolo is a an autobiographical narration solely starring Maurice Roeves, a veteran within the acting world, known most recently for his role in Damned United. At age 75 Roeves has courageously taken on the role of Italian solider Angelo Ravagli who had an affair with D.H. Lawrence’s wife Frieda. Written and directed by Nottingham born and based playwright Stephen Lowe, Just A Gigolo is the final piece to the puzzle of Lowe’s D.H. Lawrence trilogy.
The play is set in New Mexico, decades after the deaths of both Lawrence and Frieda, and we see Ravagli’s attempts to sell off Lawrence’s controversial paintings left to him by Frieda played out on stage in a semi-desperate bid to buy his ticket back home to Italy. In his hard hearted sell of these paintings, which visually seem to impress him very little, Ravagli divulges what he believes to be the truths behind the banned paintings. His reflections somewhat inadvertently bring out stories of Ravagli’s life alongside Lawrence and Frieda, shedding light on their complicated interweaving relationships.
Roeves nobly takes on the challenge of delivering his performance as Ravagli with an Italian accent. However his true Glaswegian accent seeps through at times, sadly lessening the effect of the deliverance of particular jokes or heart wrenching reflections. His mannerisms and over all body language conflated with his sometimes askew accent, creating a truly believable image that Roeves was this aged Italian Lothario.
Roeves certainly achieves making Ravagli a mischievously bold and likeable character. He is unflinching at portraying Ravagli’s relaxed attitude to sex, shouting out expletives repeatedly in opposition to England’s censorship of Lawrence’s writings. The 75 year old doggedly delivers the continual competitive comparisons between ‘dry England’ and ‘oiled up Italians’ with such enthusiasm, adding to the overall comedy value of the play.
In this one-man, one act play which lasts but one hour, the set remains stationary throughout. A lone chair rests to the side of the stage next to a small table which has a bottle of wine and cognac and a bowl of olives upon it. These props, readily drunken and eaten by Roeves allow for his performance to have a more conversational air than one long uninterrupted monologue. The table cloth and rug allude to the New Mexico location; a suitcase which rests alongside him is clearly there to signify his readiness to leave the country. The staging is kept basic so as not to outshine the paintings projected unobtrusively behind Ravagli, as if hung on the hotel wall he is lounging in, the voiceless buyer of the works sat in the perfect viewing position.
Overall the subject matter of Lowe’s play creates a wonderfully voyeuristic peep hole into the exciting literary world of D.H. Lawrence, Frieda and Lady Chatterley’s Lover himself Ravagli, which one cannot help but look away from with delight and wonder.
See ‘Just A Gigolo’ at Djanogly Theatre until Saturday 27th October