Gates of Gold - Altrincham Little Theatre

GABRIEL, an unashamed old school ac-tor, is dying. He's a man with an ego that would fill your average sized theatre and he's been around the block and bought several t-shirts.

He lives with his long term lover Conrad, stable and loyal and loving. Enter Kassie, a woman charged with caring for the difficult Gabriel as he prepares as best he can to face his final curtain.

Gabriel can, we are told, is the most challenging of charges, prone as he is to bouts of outrageousness. It all sounds like the recipe for a very funny and poignant play. And while there are some moments of inspired humour to enjoy, I felt Frank McGuiness, the writer, fails to make full use of the dramatic potential such a scenario affords.

I've seen many gay characters in drama who have found humour even in the most dire of circumstances. Gabriel doesn't do it often enough here.

As Gabriel and Conrad, Stephen Moss and Malcolm Cooper are engaging, convincing and likeable, without you really caring Gabriel isn't long for this world. I also liked Kathryn Fennell's Cassie, still nursing the guilt she feels after a family tragedy.

But I applaud Altrincham Little Theatre for taking a commercial risk with this play, which contains strong language and some sexual references. It's so refreshing for a theatre to take a risk, when so many, both amateur and professional, have one eye permanently fixed on the box office these days.

* Until January 27. The box office is on 0161 928 1113. Star rating - ***