“You need to see the jewel in its setting”
A Life in Three Acts with Bette Bourne and Mark Ravenhill has returned to the Soho Theatre, but in a significantly different format to before, evidently in advance of taking the show over to New York. The three acts, previously performed separately, have now been condensed into one two hour show, where legendary drag queen Bourne recounts a series of stories and anecdotes from his highly eventful life.
Where I didn’t feel that the format worked was in the occasional interjections from Ravenhill as other characters who appear in the story. These interruptions are too few and far between, and underdeveloped when they do appear, to have any real benefit to the storytelling, and quite simply smack of directorial vanity, i.e. giving himself something to do. Given that the previous incarnation of the show was longer, I imagine these parts were satisfactorily filled out then, but in this condensed edit, they do not work. And there’s occasionally the inescapable feeling that it’s all a bit staged, and that even the shedding of a silent tear and the passing of a tissue are all part of a show which is repeated daily.
In what is LGBT History month, A Life in Three Acts makes the most of its expressive, passionate and extremely charismatic subject to document a vital piece of queer history. Inspirational, moving and delivered with great wit and warmth throughout: though as a dramatic exercise, I suspect it is more successful as a piece of oral history than it is as a play.
Running time: 2 hours (with 10 minute interval)
Playtext cost: £3