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Category Archives: British Theatre

Ripped

I have been impressed with quite a few performances so far this Fringe, but the most impressive skill an actor can possess is the ability to elicit a gut reaction to a scenario that is beyond the ken of most audients. And Alex Gwyther left me barely able to stand up and walk out of the theatre.

In Ripped, Gwyther portrays a male rape victim masking his trauma by taking action to fulfill a gender stereotype; a stereotype he struggles to define throughout. Gwyther also embodies the victim’s associates, and just keeping the plot clear is a challenge that he rises to with the deftest of hands.

On one level, I want to praise Gwyther’s technical prowess: he is skilled and professional in every way. But the technical skill he demonstrates, regardless of how worthy it is of praise, pales into insignificance against the creative choices he has made in developing the monologue.

This is a story that balances the need to energise and engage with an edifying glimpse into the morass of toxic masculinity. That is a remarkable achievement, and I cannot describe how impressed I am with Gwyther’s achievement.

At the end of this performance, I applauded with the rest of the audience, but I could barely move, and had to take a moment gathering my thoughts before I could leave. That is the mark of a stellar performance.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 14 August 2019 in British Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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Vulvarine

Vulvarine, wowing audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe

There is a subtle difference, I think, between efforts to bring about gender equality by political action, and efforts to shift or reinforce gender equality as a paradigm and a goal. The former was needed in the last few centuries, but the latter will be needed much longer.

Fat Rascal Theatre’s Vulvarine, currently wowing audiences at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, is one of the most enjoyable examples of musical theatre to stand up to the challenge of building the gender equality paradigm.

The story centres on Bryony Buckle, a nerdy office worker with a crush on another nerdy office worker and a cough. After accepting a new medication from a misogynistic doctor, she is struck by lightning and becomes a superhero. You can guess what this hero’s name becomes…

The greatest strength of this production is how effortlessly it engages the audience, with slapstick humour and a light-hearted, whimsical air it screams along at a cracking pace, with barely enough time for the audience to draw a breath between guffaws. And the deeply important messages it delivers come with a depth or pathos rare for any musical, let alone such a comic one.

Performances are exceptional. There are five performers, and I lost count of characters at some point, but although Allie Munroe is spectacularly perfect in her depiction of Bryony Buckle, each one is a consummate professional worthy of the highest praise Edinburgh can offer.

My one objection is that I thought I was the only playwright to ever use High Wycombe in a play!

I don’t know if many misogynists would be persuaded by this work, but it reinforces messages of gender equality in a light hearted and positive way, building the culture of gender equality as paradigm, rather than movement.

But most importantly, this is musical theatre at its finest: engaging, witty and pointed.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 13 August 2019 in British Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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Royal Vauxhall

A little more theatrical than cabaret, but a little more cabaret than theatre, Royal Vauxhall straddles the divide exceptionally well, and presented beautifully in the pub it was named after.

Telling the story of the night in 1988 when Princess Diana went to a gay bar in drag with Freddie Mercury and Kenny Everett (no, I’d never heard of him either), Royal Vauxhall is named after the pub where it happened. Though the troupe


is touring the show, I was lucky enough to be in London while it was being performed at the very same Royal Vauxhall Tavern, which was rather a special moment.

Desmond O’Connor’s book is spot on for this kind of environment. Though it might be a little less interactive than most cabarets, it nonetheless allows for a real engagement with the audience that we rarely see in musical theatre. The music is loud and engaging, and there aren’t too many sappy moments to leave a pub audience bored.
And the material is just as well suited. The piece is truly hilarious and was well appreciated by the audience.

Sarah-Louise Young plays Diana, and she is charming and engaging throughout. Reuben R Kaye’s Freddie Mercury keeps the audience and the action on track, and is clearly a master of cabaret. And Stuart Saint is invariably relatable as Kenny Everett.

The show is set to tour the UK, but if they make it to Australia, I imagine there will be a receptive audience for them there too (wink, wink; nudge, nudge).

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 7 September 2017 in British Theatre, Theatre

 

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Outlaws to In-Laws

Having recently produced a show that attempted to draw a bow through LGBTIQ history, I am familiar with the difficulty of having to eschew particular bits of history to get a story across. Outlaws to In-Laws navigates this dilemma quite well, I think.

Spanning seven decades, Outlaws to In-Laws tells seven unrelated stories about gay men living their lives. The premise is simple: the changes in the way we live can’t really be broached by a single plot arc, so let’s have several plots!

And the result is remarkable. Each play digs deeply into the heart of sex or romance or both, providing a glimpse of the impact of the political sphere on the personal across seven decades of queer history.

For me, two stories really stood out, and the first was Mister Tuesday. Delivering a plate of cucumber sandwiches to his lover, who only comes on Tuesdays, a man attempts to deepen the relationship, and failing, turns to blackmail. Set in the 1960s, the ploy has a particular impact, and the performances of both Jack Bence and Elliot Balchin are compelling.

The second stand out was Reward, set in the 1970s. A young man perseveres in attempting to strike up a conversation with another at a bus stop, and a romance develops. Jack Bence is hilarious in this piece, and holds his composure remarkably. Michael Duke, likewise, is engaging and believeable, and the two do a brilliant job with Jonathan Kemp’s brilliantly composed script.

This is a timely production that neatly captures the heart of this moment in our history, this moment where we really care about our history because it seems to have brought us somewhere. As such, Outlaws to In-Laws is a quintessentially theatrical production that truly matters.

 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 5 September 2017 in British Theatre, King's Head Theatre, Theatre

 

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Rob Cawsey: Just Cruising

Desperately running out of time to take in everything the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has to offer, I stumbled late into Banshee’s to see Rob Cawsey. Apparently he’s a comedian.

A comedian he may be, but what I saw was a brilliant comic actor presenting slapstick comedy with a cohesive and engaging plot that elicited both laughter and a touch of empathy.

It’s a rare combination.

The story is his own: a big night out trying, increasingly desperately, to pick up. And throughout, there is this splendid balance between humour and despair. It is a great story presented brilliantly. Right up there with the best I’ve seen this Fringe.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 25 August 2017 in British Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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Shitfaced Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

I‘m not entirely certain that the glorification of intoxication is a public good, but I don’t think it can be argued that it’s not good for a laugh.

The premise for this piece is beautiful in its simplicity: perform one of Shakespeare’s works with a lead actor completely sloshed. To maintain the premise, a couple of audients are provided with instruments for calling for another drink for the actor, and an audient in the splash zone is put on bucket duty.

Though it may not please the purists, my immediate sensation was that this manner of presentation is possibly even truer to the style of performance in Elizabethan London than the present-day Globe. It’s bawdy and the audience are involved and don’t mind calling out.

But that’s probably where the argument for this as an authentic Shakespearean experience ends. It’s a laugh, and as far as great performances go, there’s little more than some quality improvisation to praise.

The play is shortened to one hour, which is an improvement, but does necessitate a certain amount of assumed knowledge of Shakespeare’s work.

In all, this is a great idea that’s good for one laugh, but I’m not likely to bother a second time.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 23 August 2017 in British Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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About a Goth

Life is all about transitions. Moving from one stage of life to the next, sometimes gracefully, sometimes stumbling, and sometimes holding on for your life.

About a Goth explores such a transition as a young man grapples with understanding himself.

Delivered as a monologue, the plot is revealed as a series of events that would frustrate the heck out of any gay goth teen: an unhealthy obsession with a straight mate and Starbucks’ lack of Gothic options are compounded by his family’s obstinate refusal to reject him when he comes out. Selfish buggers.

Clement Charles gives a stellar performance, full of energy and life throughout. It is beautifully written by Tom Wells, and explores this young person’s journey through a transition with empathy and humour and spirit.

So far, the best performance I’ve seen at the Fringe.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 17 August 2017 in British Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Theatre

 

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