Tony Timberlake

Looking for John

Birmingham Rep Door

****

IN just two months in 1976 Britain’s  John Curry won European, Olympic and World skating gold.

He was already multiple British champion and the same year was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year, a man at the pinnacle of his sport.

It is interesting to discover that a generation on from Birmingham born Curry’s golden era his name and legacy are not as well known as you would expect

In a biographical play written and performed by Tony Timberlake and directed by Tessa Walker, we are introduced to Curry’s personal life and career as a figure skater.

Timberlake uses Curry’s life to explore his own journey, telling us the similarities through ‘hands on’ research. Looking for John is part of Birmingham’s SHOUT Festival of Queer Arts and Culture

In the emotionally charged and incredibly researched one man production, Timberlake tells us how and why he was influenced by the man he had never met. It was clear that the paths of Curry and Timberlake never crossed, but there certainly was a deep and personal connection. When the play starts, Timberlake explains how at the age of thirteen, he loved watching Curry on ice and was fixated with the man and his work from then on.

Timberlake’s performance is intricately peppered with detailed research and adoration for Curry himself. Timberlake tells the audience of how he came to have such a close connection to the figure skater, by looking into Curry’s intimate life, starting by visiting the first place he trained.

When arriving at Solihull Ice Rink, Timberlake was shocked to find that there was no mention of Curry’s existence within the ice rink today. He asks how this can be when Curry was such a great influence to the sport in the 1970s.

We find that the only memorial to Curry is in the form of a statue, which is now in Sheffield. The confusion and sad compulsions are amplified when Timberlake tells us about meeting people with the closest connections to Curry, which exposed Curry’s ‘real’ life outside of the ice rink.

Timberlake weaves the personal life of Curry in parallel with his own life experiences. As a performer, Timberlake captivates us with an engaging story-telling tone, giving us a step by step account of how he came to the conclusions of today.

Timberlake switches voice and embodies characters that were met in the research period as well as those in his own life. It allows us to vividly imagine the rich and enticing worlds of both Curry and himself. The screen at the back shows beautiful images from Curry’s routines and Timberlake is the voiceover, talking to us about the inspiration he felt through Curry’s art.

The most important message to come from Looking for John is the sense of accepting one’s self in spite of all prejudices. Timberlake uses the life of Curry to understand and explore what being gay means to him. Curry died from an AIDS related heart attack in 1994 – he wa 44.

Because of this, Timberlake makes it clear to the audience about the importance of society’s acceptance. In conjunction with the SHOUT Festival, performers and artists have a safe place to have the voice that needs to be heard.

Timberlake paints the good and the bad in both Curry’s world and his own. Through emotional and sometimes painful accounts of recalling past events, Timberlake allows the audience to question between ‘right and wrong’ with accepting the queer community and how much acceptance has changed within the past three decades. To 19-11-16

Elizabeth Halpin

16-11-16 

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