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”

Review: Warped, VAULT Festival

Martin Malcolm’s Warped at the VAULT Festival looks at the impact of institutionalised toxic masculinity on the young men of today, through the lens of the legacy of the Kray twins 

“You’ve put me right off my Monster Munch”

It’s interesting, isn’t it, to consider the figures that society chooses to lionise, the things we’re willing to forgive or forget once a shadow of historical distance appears. The Kray twins are a case in point, some adaptation or other of their story never far from our screens, serving to usher them if not to the status of national treasure then to a pantheon of questionable British icons (we’ll discuss Churchill another day…).

Russell Lucas (producer and director) and Martin Malcolm’s (writer) Warped challenges the romanticised commercialisation of that legacy by framing questions of contemporary male behaviour around it. Is it any wonder that toxic masculinity is rife when these are the myths that young men are encouraged to look to? Through the eyes of Aaron and Matty, whose idolisation has gone to extreme levels, we’re forced to face its consequences. Continue reading “Review: Warped, VAULT Festival”

Review: Ladybones, VAULT Festival

Sorcha McCaffrey’s Ladybones proves an incisive and insightful look at OCD without ever labouring its point 

“A can of Coke is just a can of Coke. Until it’s not.”

It takes real skill to write effectively about a subject without making your play ostensibly about that subject. A simplistic take on Sorcha McCaffrey’s Ladybones would be to call it an OCD play but that would be to deny its layers of subtleties and the depth of its actual subject matter which is far more wide-ranging.

McCaffrey plays Nuala, a junior osteology archaeologist whose quietly ordered existence is thrown into disarray upon the discovery of a skeleton which turns out to be that of a young woman. Throwing herself into finding out the story of the victim, she starts to identify with her, a journey that pulls too hard on the thread of everything holding her together. Continue reading “Review: Ladybones, VAULT Festival”

Review: And The Rest of Me Floats, Bush Theatre

Outbox Theatre’s And The Rest of Me Floats is the queer house party at the Bush Theatre that you didn’t know you needed

“Do you see me?
Do you really see me?”

Outbox Theatre’s And The Rest of Me Floats soars in its opening and closing moments. There’s not a word spoken for the first few minutes but as the company of trans, non-binary, and queer performers take their seats one by one on the stage of the Bush Theatre – full of unflinching direct eye contact with the audience – there’s such a powerful statement of intent about their unalienable right to take over this space.

And as the show winds to its climax just over an hour later, this already most unconventional of shows opens out into something of a game of ‘Never Have I Ever’ as performers and audience members alike are encouraged to share something of themselves. It’s a beautifully intimate and inclusive act, topped off with a raucous singalong to MUNA’s anthemic ‘I Know A Place’ – how my queer little heart filled with joy. Continue reading “Review: And The Rest of Me Floats, Bush Theatre”

Review: [title of show], Above the Stag

Four cracking performances make [title of show] a musical highlight of the month at the Above the Stag Theatre, more than holding its own with the West End

“A musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical”

In a month full of major West End musicals opening, [title of show] is a glorious example that bigger isn’t always better. In the studio at the Above the Stag Theatre, something special is on offer, perfectly suited to the intimacy of the space and highlighting some pretty serious musical theatre talent about which we should be shouting as loud as we do those with their faces on billboards on the Strand.

Hunter Bell (book) and Jeff Bowen’s (music and lyrics) meta-musical of musical theatre injokes as it depicts two guys called Hunter and Jeff responding to a call for submissions to the New York Musical Theatre Festival. And looking for inspiration, they decide to write a show about two guys called Hunter and Jeff responding to a call for submissions to the New York Musical Theatre Festival, using their own words verbatim and bringing two friends onboard as well.  Continue reading “Review: [title of show], Above the Stag”

Review: Come From Away, Phoenix Theatre

The highly anticipated musical Come From Away leaves me dry-eyed at the Phoenix Theatre despite a very strong cast

“There’s nothing to do, nothing to see
Thank god we stopped at the duty-free”

I didn’t check the merchandise stand at Irene Sankoff and David Hein’s Come From Away but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were seeing branded tissues, such is the weight of expectation that comes with this musical, set in the days after 9/11. But rather than New York, the show is set more than 2,000 kilometres away in the remote town of Gander, Newfoundland, where 38 planes with 6,579 passengers were grounded in the aftermath of the attacks. 

There, in a Canadian town that practically doubled in population overnight, we witness the unfolding of a tragedy but more significantly, the response of a community willing and able to do anything to extend the hand of friendship. Doors are flung open, shoulders proffered, bottles opened, an unquestioned barrage of hospitality seeking to envelop traumatised passengers who had been trapped for hours on their planes (in a pre-social media age remember), only to be released to find out the terrible news. Continue reading “Review: Come From Away, Phoenix Theatre”