Review: All I See Is You, Octagon Studio

Nowt so queer as gays up north – All I See Is You is an affecting period LGBT romance at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton 

“If I never walk again, I don’t care”

The Octagon are certainly getting their money’s worth out of Ben Occhipinti. In the main house, he’s directing East is East and down the stairs in their studio theatre, he is also helming the premiere of Kathrine Smith’s All I See Is You. And where the former is looking at mixed race families in Salford in the 70s, this play turns its focus on to the experience of gay men in the 60s.

Those men are Ciarán Griffiths’ Bobby and Christian Edwards’ Ralph, whose meet-cute takes place in a toilet cubicle and soon turns into a smouldering mix of sexual compatibility and serious potential as they tumble hard for each other. But in a world where homosexuality has yet to be decriminalised, where societal prejudice is so deeply ingrained, it’s clear this is a love that will have to be fought for. Continue reading “Review: All I See Is You, Octagon Studio”

Review: Moonfleece, Pleasance

Philip Ridley’s youth-focused Moonfleece receives a sprightly revival from Lidless Theatre at the Pleasance

Is it London if there’s isn’t at least a couple of Philip Ridley plays in the offing?! Hot on the heels of Angry in Southwark and with Vincent River now on at the Park, Lidless Theatre are reviving his 2010 play Moonfleece at North London’s Pleasance Theatre.

I saw Moonfleece at Rich Mix as a baby blogger back in 2010 at a time when I didn’t know what a Philip Ridley was. And it probably actually served as an ideal entrée into his oeuvre as it is considerably less formally challenging than much of his other work. But though ostensibly written for young people, it is no less thought-provoking in the treatment of its issues. Continue reading “Review: Moonfleece, Pleasance”

Review: The Inheritance, Young Vic

An epic gay play for the 21st century – Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance is a must-see at the Young Vic

“A chain of gay men helping each other, loving each other, hurting each other, understanding each other”

It would be easy to focus on the fact that The Inheritance is long and yes, its two parts total up to nearly seven hours in the thankfully comfortable seats of the Young Vic. But they also sum up to a brave and epic piece of new writing from Matthew Lopez, taking a scalpel to contemporary gay life in New York, asking what does it mean to be a gay man today and just how much of that is owed to an inherited (and neglected) cultural legacy.  

Structurally, the play owes a curious debt to EM Forster’s Howard’s End, using it as a considerable inspiration for plot but also as a device to launch into its storytelling, which has an occasional tricksiness to it, pulling at the thread of the stories we wish we could tell rather than the ones we have to. That main story centres on Eric and Toby, a gay couple who have the foundations of their relationship rocked when the tenancy of their amazing apartment is terminated. As their lives reshape around new realities, new experiences, new challenges, they come to see how little of the world they really know. Continue reading “Review: The Inheritance, Young Vic”

Not-really-a-Review: The Inheritance Part One, Young Vic

“Holy shit, Meryl Streep is here?”

I’m just going to write the one review to cover both parts of the The Inheritance but I wanted to flag up that if, for some crazy reason, the full seven hours of Mathew Lopez’s epic didn’t appeal, then you could do worse than sticking with Part One. For though it may not have any Vanessa Redgrave, it does contain a moment of pure transcendent beauty that left me weeping on the bus journey home, and so how could you possibly now resist?! Continue reading “Not-really-a-Review: The Inheritance Part One, Young Vic”

Review: Foul Pages, Hope

Foul Pages, Hope Theatre, London Fringe, Shakespeare,

Having a gay old time of it with Shakespeare and his company in Foul Pages at the Hope Theatre, London.

“We’re going to get it up the arse by the new King of England…’
Thank God we rehearsed.

It is easy to slip into reverence with artistic representations of William Shakespeare, such is his storied reputation but pleasingly, there’s little of that on display here in Robin Hooper’s Foul Pages. Imagining the man behind the myth, Hooper presents the Bard as a hard-working theatre professional, beset by controversies, split loyalties and tough decisions – the Vicky Featherstone of his day if you will.

His Rita, Sue… moment comes as a result of needing to secure the patronage of new king James I, not just for his own career prospects but to save the imprisoned Sir Walter Raleigh, a close personal friend of his collaborator the Countess of Pembroke. But to please the king is to disappoint some of his actors and in the Wiltshire estate where they’re all sequestered whilst London is riddled with plague, the consequences of puncturing actors’ egos become all too real. Continue reading “Review: Foul Pages, Hope”

Review: Moments & Empty Beds, Hope

“Why are we talking about eggs”

A double bill of short plays by Julia Cranney, Moments & Empty Beds offer up a neatly incisive look at the modern world through the eyes of those whose stories aren’t heard as often as they should. Those having to shoulder the burden of a failing mental health system,  those who bear the brunt of society’s rudeness towards service workers, those who don’t have the support systems in place that so many take for granted.

Moments follows the unlikely friendship that blossoms between Ava – in her early twenties and living in London for six months now,  working in a call centre – and Daniel, fifty-something, somehow estranged from his family and paying the bills with a job as a car park security guard (and no, he can’t help you with your ticket). Nothing too much exciting happens in their lives but as they describe the minutiae of everyday life in all its unassuming banality, these details accumulate into a weighty portrait of two ever so slightly desperate souls. Continue reading “Review: Moments & Empty Beds, Hope”

Review: Gypsy Queen, VAULT Festival

“We’re all friends of Dorothy but you’re the cowardly lion”

Rob Ward has form when it comes to examining how homophobia is entrenched in the world of sport. His one-man show Away From Home looked at whether the Premiership might ever be ready for an out gay footballer with intelligence and integrity. But it is to the boxing ring that Ward now turns his attention with his play Gypsy Queen, already an award-nominated success after touring the UK and playing Edinburgh last year.

Dane ‘The Pain’ Sansom is the son of a boxing legend and a pretty nifty boxer himself, ‘Gorgeous’ George O’Connell is a bare-knuckle champion from the traveller community making his first steps into the world of professional boxing. And when George rocks up at the gym owned by Dane’s dad, sparks soon fly as their respective cockiness rubs up against each other, and sure enough, it isn’t too long before you can remove the -iness from that last bit as they get to know each other better in the shower. Continue reading “Review: Gypsy Queen, VAULT Festival”

Review: Collective Rage – A Play in Five Betties, Southwark Playhouse

“My PUSSY is not gonna do the acting. 
I am gonna do the acting. 
In THE THEA-TAH.”

As Collective Rage‘s sub-title suggests, there’s a whole lotta Betty in Jen Silverman’s play. From an Upper East Sider unhappy with her husband to a disillusioned Latina, a younger woman also unhappy with her husband to a genderqueer ex-con via a lesbian would-be mechanic, it turns out – in some ways – we are all Betty, #JeSuisBetty, #BettysArmy.

For these five particular and very different Betties though, being brought together by the power of theatre provides an opportunity to explore something more about their Bettiness. They investigate hidden desires, bristle at others’ ambitions, discover the power of their own vagina in one case, and with a raucous, drag cabaret inspired vibe, is punchily energetic.  
Continue reading “Review: Collective Rage – A Play in Five Betties, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Tumulus, VAULT Festival

“I’ve never had a lover die on me before”

Chemsex is one of those subjects that always seems to pop up at festivals and sure enough, in week 1 of the VAULT we find a new play on the very subject by Christopher Adams. But with a sparkingly fresh and darkly witty take and some intelligent and imaginative direction from Matt Steinberg, Tumulus emerges as a cracking piece of theatre, a “chilling queer noir” that entertains as much as it elucidates.
 
Anthony is well and truly addicted to the chemsex scene in London. He’s holding down his job as an assistant curator at the British Museum just about fine, though that promotion always seems to elude him, as his evenings and weekends are taken up with chasing the next amazing high, the next unmissable party, the next insatiable guy. This high-functioning addict has his certainties shaken though when his one of his latest hook-ups turns up dead on Hampstead Heath.

Continue reading “Review: Tumulus, VAULT Festival”

Review: A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters, Hope

“Jamie stayed and explored Peterborough, which has a Waitrose. He can’t resist a good Waitrose”
From the minute you walk into the Hope for A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Christmas Round Robin Letters, you know something special is afoot. Chairs are draped with blankets and cushions, bowls of Quality Street twinkle like fairy lights, and we’re heartily greeted like old friends by the couple whose front room we’re entering. It’s a warmly convivial beginning to a warmly convivial show.
A Curmudgeon’s Guide… is based on a book by the late, lamented Guardian diarist Simon Hoggart, where he collated some of the more extreme examples of the Christmas round-up-of-the-year letter that people have received. Gently poking fun at the humblebrags and hubris they contain, Scott Le Crass has fashioned an intimate two-hander which looks lightly at that all-too-human need to share.
That it does by having hosts Kate Russell-Smith and Claire Lacey break the ice with some cracker-pulling (no, the hat didn’t fit me, they never do!) and then proceeding to read out excerpts from some of their favourite letters, mocking the random level of detail included, the superhuman accomplishments of children, the luxury vacations that all these people seem to be able to take.
And wrapped around these recitals are the delicate hints of the relationship between the two. A sadness that is at first unspoken, then as the letters they read take a poignant turn – revealing a year’s worth of bad news in some cases – their melancholy bleeding out to force them to reflect on their own lives, their own experiences. At just an hour, this is done with a light touch but still manages a gut-punching level of emotion.
Jai Morjaria’s subtle lighting changes reflect these emotional shifts well but the best thing about this production is the fact that this is a lesbian couple is incidental. It is these types of stories that are invaluable in normalising LGBT+ cultural representation and Le Crass deserves credit for taking the action to change the original heterosexual pairing of his adaptation in this way. And if a lesbian-themed show at the Hope becomes my newest Christmas tradition then hell yeah, I’m down with that.  
Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 23rd December