Review: Cucumber & Banana – testing your tastebuds?

In two new dramas, once again Russell T Davies fits modern stereotypes of gay Britain into his work, but how many labels can you fit in a three-letter word?

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Russell T Davies is known to not shy away from controversy. Although I loved watching Queer As Folk (admittedly about ten years after it was first broadcasted), I couldn’t relate to the characters, the storyline, or even much of the concept of the show, because my nights out do not consist of looking to ‘cop-off’. Okay, so many would put that statement down to my age. But really? Can people honestly say that the storyline of a 15-year-old boy with blonde hair and blue eyes would end up at the centre of a major city’s attention from a series of hook-ups and the success of ‘copping off’?

In reality Nathan would be a one-night stand only to perhaps be mentioned in an inappropriate anecdote at a dinner party, or in Stuart’s case, an orgy waiting to happen. Not chauffeured into the school gates from last night night’s lay – But I never said I didn’t enjoy watching the story unfold. Where would the show be without the enhanced monologues, dramatic twists and the exaggerated climaxes? We loved it because it was a vague reflection of what many-wanted scene-life to encompass. The care-free lost souls of canal street all out to have a good time. That, and also the fact that Davies had serious balls when it came to writing some of the more graphic scenes.

So it comes with little surprise, that when Channel 4 and E4 launched the promotion to the new kids-on-the-block TV show, Cucumber and Banana, I was eager to view how Davies would represent modern gay life of teens of similar age to myself.

I take my hat off to broadcasting channels for combining storylines in two separate series, embodying gay life through two different, yet both very colourful glasses. Cucumber on Channel4 looks at middle-age life for gay men. The main characters have settled down, been together for nine years, swapped dancing on the podium for dinners or even as far as a night in front of the telly. Both Lance and Henry are comfortable but lacking passion. You would be lying if you said that you didn’t dread getting old. When youth gets lost in the past and society strays its attention and spotlights on to the newcomers. That’s a scary situation to imagine and one that happens all to quickly, I have heard.

Cucumber is followed by the E4 spin-off show, Banana that focuses on youth, desire and lust. Much the same as Queer As Folk did but the shouted chat up lines in Babylon are louder and much clearer spoken in a Grindr message, saving time and energy that for many is all part of the process of hooking up these days.

Again, a strong story. And this time, it does shamefully reflect a lot of single and not-so-single men who are interested in other men. But when it came to main character Dean’s relationship with his parents, I was less convinced. The ‘shock-factor’ was lost on me.

Yes, both shows have value. They’re dramatic, engaging and it will be interesting to see how the characters evolve over the next few episodes.

Famous for his lengthy, in-depth monologues, Davies has in the past managed to represent behaviour and life-choices through the vivid metaphors from his characters, (Stuart’s coming out monologue in Queer As Folk being a personal favourite). And to some degree he has done it again, but the second punch is always less of an impact, I feel. Maybe it’s because I’m young, or perhaps its because I’m not ‘on the scene’ but Davies’ writing hasn’t ever reflected my impression of what it’s like to be gay. For me, it’s the same as being straight, you just fancy blokes instead. I don’t believe that anyone in this world owns just one label to his or her name. Your sexual preference shouldn’t ever define who you are, only you can do that with what you decide to offer the world.

Finally, I’m not a critic, I just wanted to share my views. Davies is a talented, brave and entertaining writer. His work has made the history books as well as dominating headlines. He is little short of a legend in most gay men’s eyes. Once again he has created shows that breaks barriers whilst educating and entertaining his audience – So for that reason I think Davies has completed a job well done!

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