Review: Tickle the Musical, King’s Head Theatre

Set in the world of competitive enduance tickling, Tickle the Musical proves a rather good-natured, sweet thing at the King’s Head Theatre

“There’s something interestingly subtextual going on there”

I probably shouldn’t admit this but I am extremely ticklish, to the point where even looking at someone getting tickled sends a little shiver down my spine. So naturally I booked in to see a musical about competitive enduance tickling (it’s a thing – I’d say google it, at your own peril…) but at a safe distance from any of the feather dusters lurking on the stage.

Chris Burgess’ Tickle the Musical proves to be a rather good-natured, sweet thing that wisely takes itself not at all seriously and is all the more effective for it. A feather-light plot sees smalltown boys Chris and Callum offered fame and fortune (well, five hundred quid) by the calculating Davina Diamond to tickle each other on film, for her website – what on earth could go wrong?!

After a slightly slow beginning, Robert McWhir’s production launches into life once it leans properly into its inherent campness. As Davina declares that two fit lads in short shorts tickling each other isn’t gay in ‘It’s Not Gay’, tongues are placed firmly in cheeks and the homoeroticism is allowed to soar off the chart. By the time we’re at the tickling world championship, you really will be asking what would Julie Andrews do…
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Review: Mission Creep, White Bear Theatre

Bee Scott’s very funny Mission Creep proves an impressive exploration of some of the more neglected facets of queer identities at the White Bear Theatre

“What the fuck do you think this is, The Handmaid’s Tale in space?”

It can sometimes feel like every day is marking something or other – it’s Black History Month, today is both #PronounsDay and #WorldFoodDay, next week is Asexual Awareness Week and while it is all too easy to roll one’s eyes at yet another date, there’s something invaluable about the opportunities they offer to open our eyes to the rich plurality of the world around us. So words like queerplatonic and asexuality are bandied around in Bee Scott’s new queer sci-fi play Mission Creep, it proves an educative as well as entertaining experience.

And it really is entertaining. For all the weighty themes here – a nuclear apocalypse rages around the characters – Paul Anthoney’s production is a finely calibrated comedy, fully embracing the ridiculousness that is sure to accompany the end of the world. Asexual Tess and bisexual Liam have clocked how to escape impending doom, by gaming their fertility to sign up to an intergalactic relocation project. They just need to convince the authorities that they’re a regular cishet couple ready and willing to procreate. Easy, right…? Continue reading “Review: Mission Creep, White Bear Theatre”

Review: A Partnership, Theatre503

Rory Thomas-Howes’ two-hander A Partnership takes an incisive look at modern gay relationships at the Theatre503

“I don’t know why I thought tonight would be any different”

Playing out over an hour of real time, Rory Thomas-Howes’ two-hander A Partnership takes an incisive look at modern gay relationships and asks big questions about what they could and should like, now that so many battles over equality have been won. Now that the gays can have a ‘normal’ life, what might that look like?

For Zach, it means breakfast islands, posh toastie makers and a Nutribullet. For Ally, it means being able to hold his boyfriend’s hand in the pub on a work do, maybe even give him a kiss. And as the pair of them return to their new flat to wait out the hour before Ally’s 30th birthday starts, the faultlines in their five-year relationship begin to buckle. Continue reading “Review: A Partnership, Theatre503”

Review: Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre

Annie Jenkins’ impeccably acted Karaoke Play proves quietly devastating at the Bunker Theatre

“I’ve got a fucking funny story
It’s me”

What’s your go-to karaoke track? Mine is ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This’, both the Dusty Springfield and the Pet Shop Boys parts natch, though it takes some doing to get the mike in my hand. But much as they’re easily derided, karaoke nights can offer moments of real insight into something of what our aspirational society has become, hardwired as they are into communities through their local pubs. And it is this rich seam of potential that Annie Jenkins mines with her new play Karaoke Play, directed superbly by Lucy Grace McCann. 

A canny piece of programming at the Bunker Theatre sees this Sunday/Monday show take full advantage of Zoe Hurwitz’s exceptional, hyper-realistic set design for main show We Anchor in Hope. It helps that Karaoke Play is set in a hostelry too but more than that, the informality of the pub chair seating peels back another level of artifice to allow a directness that is sometimes startling. And as Jenkins’ play weaves together 4 interconnected monologues that edge towards the deeply confessional, this sense of being in your local conjures up something subtly magical.
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Review: The Strange Case of Jekyll & Hyde, Brockley Jack

Arrows & Traps’ queer noir take on The Strange Case of Jekyll & Hyde is a contemporary adaptation that speaks to the ages at the Brockley Jack Theatre

“It’s verging on the apocalyptic”

Well if you’re going to do the classics, you might as well do them like this! Ross McGregor’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella updates The Strange Case of Jekyll & Hyde to the 2020 US presidential election but it also infuses the story with an undeniable air of menace and queerness that at once feels contemporary and entirely respectful of the source.

McGregor has taken clear inspiration from ‘Mayor Pete’ for his version of Henry Jekyll, an energetic young senator from Indiana who, in light of Trump’s impeachment, dares to dream of rescuing the Oval Office. Against a backdrop of seemingly never-ending school shootings, his platform is a vociferously anti-gun one but as investigative journalist Gabrielle joins his team, she discovers there’s more than just a skeleton in the closet… 
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Review: Hello Again, Union Theatre

Round and round and round we go. La Ronde surfaces again as Michael John LaChiusa’s Hello Again at the Union Theatre

“I’ve been searching high and low
For you but then
What does it matter?
Hello again”

It is a universal truth that you’re never too far away from some adaptation or another of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde. It’s been gay, it’s been musical, it’s been gender-neutral, it’s been Hollywood, and now it is back to being musical again, with the Union Theatre’s revival of Michal John LaChiusa’s Hello Again

LaChiusa’s adaptation sets each of its ten scenes in a different decade of the twentieth century, aiming for a broad investigation of how, if at all, love and sex have changed over the years. This also allows him to cherrypick from a much wider range of musical styles than if he’d stuck with the original’s 1890 Vienna. Continue reading “Review: Hello Again, Union Theatre”

Post-#Pride season round-up

As the dust settles on another season of Pride festivals with an ever-so-slightly contentious Manchester event, I thought I’d flag up a few pieces of LGBT+ content, trying my best to look outside the pale and male G part of the rainbow…

So in no particular order, you can go see Tomboy at the White Bear Theatre this week, book ahead for Stardust, and My Beautiful Laundrette, read reviews of Vita and Virginia off the big screen, Gentleman Jack, Queers and Years and Years off the TV,  The View UpStairs late of the Soho Theatre, Continue reading “Post-#Pride season round-up”

July theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing for the last couple of months, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre. Here’s some brief thoughts on most of what I saw  in July.

On Your Feet, aka the rhythm will get you, sometimes
the end of history…, aka how can you get cheese on toast so wrong
Equus, aka hell yes for Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting design
Games for Lovers, aka straight people be crazy
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, aka the one that got my goat
The Girl on the Train, aka Philip McGinley in shorts
Uncle Vanya, aka I really need to stop booking for plays like this with casts like that 
Jellyfish, aka justice for the second best play of last year
Sweat, aka Clare Perkins should always be on in the West End
Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 The Musical, aka yay for lovely new musicals in the West End
The Light in the Piazza, aka Molly Lynch fricking nails it
Jesus Christ Superstar, aka was third time the charm?
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TV Review: Queers

Mark Gatiss’ Queers – a set of monologues has lost none of its power since premiering in 2017

“He knows me for what I am”

I couldn’t make the theatrical readings of Queers at the Old Vic, so I was glad that filmed versions of them were made (for airing on BBC4). Ricocheting around the decades of the twentieth century, this set of monologues marked 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 decriminalised private homosexual acts between men aged over 21, and aimed to celebrate some of the most poignant, funny, tragic and riotous moments of British gay male experience.

Pulled together by Mark Gatiss, these 8 20-minute pieces are ostensibly set in the same bar but run the full gamut of emotion as we shift around in time. There’s exquisite moments of happiness in lives otherwise marked by despair. The fleeting touch from Gatiss’ The Man on the Platform so achingly described by Ben Whishaw, the heady night spent with an American soldier by Ian Gelder’s omi in Matthew Baldwin’s I Miss the War.

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Review: The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre

A vital piece of gay history is unearthed in LGBT+ musical The View UpStairs at the Soho Theatre

“In this kingdom we’ve found
Where the queens and clones collide
And though it reeks of cheap cologne
It’s my favorite escape from the world outside”

There’s something so powerful about the power of theatre to educate as well as ilustrate. The 1973 arson attack that took the lives of 32 people in a New Orleans gay bar was actually the most tragic hate crime until Orlando but it remains comparatively little known. So Max Vernon’s choice to use it as inspiration for his musical The View UpStairs is freighted with significance from the off.

And at its best, it is hugely powerful. A cross between a kind of oral history and musical theatre, it fleshes out the lives of gay people in 1970s USA in all its multi-faceted nature through its collection of what might at first be mistaken as stock characters. The aspiring drag queen, the sharp-edged hustler, the dreamy twink, the closeted musician, the lesbian ‘mother’, all are present and correct. Continue reading “Review: The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre”