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Category Archives: British Theatre

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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Cannonballl

Cannonball starts well.

I’m impressed by the dialogue. I’m impressed by the actors. I’m impressed that it’s genuinely naturalistic and the media being projected is atmospheric and well coordinated.

Slowly, though, it unravels. Maybe I missed a thread somewhere, a vital piece of information that I needed to follow the plot. It started with two mates talking about girls, then one of them ends up with a girlfriend who becomes a wife and has a baby… and he slowly descends into a kind of depression, until the play peters out with us wondering whether he’ll take his own life or not.

By the end it’s feels terribly melodramatic without enough plot to carry the emotion. Which is a shame, given the promise the beginning held.

The quality of the performances don’t really decline, nor does the quality of dialogue, which is why I think it might be me who missed something. If you’re reading this, and you’ve seen it (as opposed to if you’re in it, or maybe even then!), let me know what you thought.

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

 

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Teddy Ferrara

teddy ferraraThough somewhat confused, Teddy Ferrara is an engaging piece with some intriguing characters and an excellent cast.

Set on a university campus that sees more than it’s fair share of suicide, it explores the lives of a range of gay and not-so-gay characters and how they intersect around stigma and social activism. It’s absolutely engaging, deals with important issues that must be addressed, but it doesn’t quite manage to hold together as well as I wanted it to.

I fear it may be too politically-minded to be of any practical good. It covers, I think, too much ground, and delves into so many political issues that its narrative is mired and somewhat unclear. It wants to be at once a story while also being a missive, and in trying to be both, it succeeds at being neither. The missive’s premise, it seems, is articulated by a minor character, rather than, as should be the case on stage, demonstrated by the central plot. The very title itself obfuscates the drama by implying that the central plot is that of Teddy Ferrara, which it is not, by any means. Far prettier characters (I’m not just talking about the actors portraying them, but also these characters’ charisma) steal the show, with Teddy ending up little more than a plot device. Or perhaps that’s not true: the stories they tell are also compelling.

And this is the play’s biggest flaw. The playwright, Christopher Shinn, has developed several compelling stories, all of them worth telling:

  • Gabe’s somewhat pragmatic romance with Drew, interrupted by personal traumas and mild betrayals, would make a brilliant variation on the usual romantic play where the central characters, instead of falling madly in love, fall gently into a mixture of like and lust.
  • Jay’s interest in Gabe could be more than a mere subplot to that story.
  • Teddy Ferrara could also warrant a play that was actually about him, exploring the multiple personas of those who live online to escape the trauma of actual human interaction.
  • The ostensibly platonic relationship between Gabe and Tim would be an interesting drama.
  • The university president, with his hilarious working relationship with the provost, and their interactions with student representative groups could make a brilliant comedy.

As it stands, none of these narratives really take centre stage.

Despite the mild confusion of the competing sub-plots, Gabe, portrayed annoyingly (which is entirely appropriate) by Luke Newberry, was front and centre as a character. He is a wet handkerchief. Ostensibly altruistic and kind, but born with the benefits of good looks, and white male privilege, and displaying them in the worst possible way. His membership of the LGBTIQ minority is really the only reason he comes across with any sense of altruism at all. He is a poor choice for the university’s diversity panel, and of course endears himself to the establishment.

He is supported by the noteworthy performances of Ryan McParland, who is brilliantly awkward and absolutely endearing as the Teddy of the title, Nathan Wiley as his closeted questioning friend Tim, and Oliver Johnstone, whose irksome portrayal of the principled and very controlling boyfriend is not in any way endearing but nonetheless very recognisable and absolutely believable.

So I am left a little flat. The play was engaging and the performances brilliant. But at the risk of being as annoyingly principled as Drew, I must remind myself that although a politician may articulate, a playwright must demonstrate. It is something I always try to remember when writing, though I, too, fail.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 28 November 2015 in British Theatre, Donmar Warehouse, Theatre

 

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