Review: Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story, Hope Theatre

A twisted but thrilling true crime two-hander – Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story is a must-see at the Hope Theatre

“If this keeps going on I’ll go crazy
I’m aroused, you’re conveniently lazy”

How far to go in the name of erotic obsession? You’d hesitate to call Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story a love story, what happens here is far too dark and twisted for that, but what you do get is a horribly fascinating study of twisting power dynamics and blurred moralities. And with sex thrown into the equation, it becomes a heady combination, enough to drive you to…well, you’ll see.

Stephen Dolginoff’s one-act musical is based on the true story of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold but rather than glorifying their crimes, including murder, it focuses on the extraordinary relationship between these two men in 1920s Chicago. Lovers, abusers, conspirators, victims, they slip and slide from pillar to post as we try to make sense of who they are and what they do to each other.
Continue reading “Review: Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story, Hope Theatre”

Review: Cry Havoc, Park Theatre

Cry Havoc proves a rather slight look at contemporary international gay relationships at the Park Theatre

“I threw up in the back of a taxi once in Chipping Sodbury”

I wanted to love Cry Havoc but it didn’t quite do it for me. Set in present-day Cairo, Egyptian Mohammed is being comforted by his lover Nicholas, a British academic after being imprisoned and tortured by the authorities for his sexuality. Their relationship is of course a secret but as Mohammed’s family and community turn against him, Nick is determined to ‘save’ him.

But it isn’t just as simple as upping sticks to the UK and playwright Tom Coash attempts to portray the worlds of difference between gay life in these two spheres. Nick is the embodiment of Western liberalism and Mohammed is the firebrand revolutionary who wants to provoke change from within. With such a cultural divide between them, does love stand a chance? Continue reading “Review: Cry Havoc, Park Theatre”

Yet-another-re-review: Company, Gielgud Theatre

Just the one more trip to see the glorious Company at the Gielgud Theatre before it sadly depart

“You can’t stay in your thirties forever”

I went back, again. Well I had to, at least while the above quote is still true for me for a couple more months. There’s not much left to say about Company that I haven’t said already here, or here, or here and it remains an absolute pleasure to watch, a show I could sit through time and time again even more so than I have already. It will be very much missed.

And I do think it really has gotten better as the run has progressed, performances deepened and matured, but also deliciously playful – I swear the magnificently brassy Patti Lupone has done something different every single time and it has been wonderful for it. It will be fascinating to see how Marianne Elliot’s production fares on Broadway and who, if anyone, transfers with it. Continue reading “Yet-another-re-review: Company, Gielgud Theatre”

Review: Queer Trilogy, Drayton Arms

The Queer Trilogy of A Sticky Season, Minor Disruptions & Crystal Bollix presents The Bitch Ball proves something of a mixed bag at the Drayton Arms

“I am finally ready to learn”

Recent Mountview grads Jack Donald, Katie Paterson and Alexandra Christle have banded together to mount Queer Trilogy, a triple bill of shows at the Drayton Arms that probes interestingly at queer identities, how they’re shaped and formed by past and present but also complicated by the mere act of being. They’re further challenged by being bound together in this format which doesn’t necessarily suit them so well.

For they are three disparate, diverse pieces. Christie’s Crystal Bollix Presents The Bitch Ball is a drag act that delves into the social construct of the word bitch and how its continued cultural significance filters down to the individual. Through the use of lip-syncing and some very game audience participation, Bollix’s personality shines through but the piece doesn’t quite have the emotional resonance to achieve the depths it wants. Continue reading “Review: Queer Trilogy, Drayton Arms”

Review: Romance Romance, Above the Stag

Caught in a bad romance, a gayed-up take on Romance Romance does nothing for me at the Above the Stag theatre

“There are days he blows his fuse now 
And there are nights he’s just not there”

Romance Romance was nominated for 5 Tonys in 1988 and performance nods aside, you have to wonder what the standard of the other nominees was (actually, they included The Phantom of the Opera and Into the Woods…!) as its charms really rather eluded me. 

Steven Dexter’s production reframes Barry Harman’s book and lyrics into a gay context which certainly has interest. But the disparity of the two acts, based respectively on Arthur Schnitzler’s The Little Comedy and Jules Renard’s Le Pain de Ménage, means it is a curiously disengaging watch. Continue reading “Review: Romance Romance, Above the Stag”

Review: Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales – The Ginger Snapped, Leicester Square Theatre

Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales’ cabaret show The Ginger Snapped mixes music, musings on mental health and moments of queer solidarity at the Leicester Square Theatre

“Take it from the whore’s mouth”

The best cabaret shows always find the sweet spot between concert and confessional and in The Ginger Snapped, Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales manage to do just that. As a promised show disintegrates into a pseudo-therapy session, the pair delve into the murky waters of fame and fabulousness to reveal some of the toll it can take on one’s mental health.

Winner of season five of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Monsoon’s strengths are immediately apparent with the opening number which encapsulates everything about the kind of performer she is. Bantering with the audience, cracking jokes, working in all kinds of interplay with accompanist Scales and delivering some straight-up powerhouse vocals, there’s no mistaking this is the real deal. Continue reading “Review: Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales – The Ginger Snapped, Leicester Square Theatre”

Review: Circa, Old Red Lion Theatre

Tom Ratcliffe’s Circa feels just too fragmentary and ephemeral at the Old Red Lion Theatre to really convince

“Most people get to be happy with one person. I don’t see why I should have it any different”

I was a big fan of Tom Ratcliffe’s VELVET at the VAULT Festival and so was intrigued to catch this production of his debut play Circa at the Old Red Lion Theatre. But where VELVET taps right into contemporary culture with its gay perspective on the #MeToo era, Circa feels curiously dated.

The play follows the amorous adventures of a gay man at different stages in his life, ostensibly tracking the way in which gay relationships have developed over the decades. It’s a nifty conceit but one which struggles to come to full fruition here, one man’s shags over 30 years not necessarily equating to the evolution of modern gay life. Continue reading “Review: Circa, Old Red Lion Theatre”

Review: Pufferfish, VAULT Festival

Pufferfish is a complex, nuanced, deeply disturbing play about Jeffrey Dahmer and his crimes at the VAULT Festival

“Him…noticing me”

The necessities of quick get-ins and -outs at the VAULT Festival means that not unreasonably, many a show’s design has relied upon easily packable archive boxes. Clearly, Charlotte Espiner didn’t get the memo as her design for Pufferfish makes for hugely impressive impact on entrance to the Cage with its suspended marble effect torsos and plinth.

Nick Bruckman’s play (of which I was allowed to attend a preview) takes a riveting and spine-chilling fresh look at Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer responsible for the death and dismemberment of 17 young men in the 1980s. Pushing past lurid headlines, Pufferfish seeks to try and understand something of the man as well as the murderer, delving deep not only into his psychology but into that of his victims too. Continue reading “Review: Pufferfish, VAULT Festival”

Review: Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran, Omnibus Theatre

Queer feminist theatre/cabaret hybrid Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran leaves me dissatisfied at the Omnibus Theatre

Oh I really wanted to love this but I have to say I was rather disappointed. When a show self-describes as equal parts theatre and drag cabaret, you have to hope that it will achieve both aspects and aim to exceed expectations too but ultimately, it was a case of sashaying away for Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran.

There’s no lack of ambition here, not at all. Sarah Chew (writer and director) slips between Tehran, Derry and London as she explores cultural stereotyping, censorship, artistic freedom, sexual freedom, Iranian politics, Soho politics and even then I feel like I’ve missed tons out. Packed into a show which wants to blend cabaret and theatre, it just feels like too much. Continue reading “Review: Lipstick: A Fairy Tale of Iran, Omnibus Theatre”

Review: i will still be whole (when you rip me in half), VAULT Festival

For me, i will still be whole (when you rip me in half) ends up plagued by some problematic directorial choices at the VAULT Festival

“I should have gone with her”

There’s something inevitably perverse that it isn’t a show in the aptly named Cavern that proves to be the first directorial mis-step that I get at this year’s VAULT Festival, but rather one in the comparative intimacy of the Pit next door. Wrapping the audience around all four walls has its definite advantages in establishing a certain kind of relationship with the audience but Helen Morley’s production crucially sacrifices a huge amount of audibility in doing so. 

And again, you can kind of see why the choice was made. The nature of Ava Wong Davies’ writing in i will still be whole (when you rip me in half) lends itself directly to the ruminative and muted. And as it takes the form of two monologues that wind ever closer, the movement of the two actors reflects both the emotional distance that exists and the way that it fluctuates. But the hushed delivery and static nature of many a scene proved fatal to actually hearing much of the text when presented with an actor’s back. Continue reading “Review: i will still be whole (when you rip me in half), VAULT Festival”