10 questions for 10 years – Mary Grace Nguyen

Trendfem may be no more but ex-blogger of opera and theatre Mary Grace Nguyen still has plenty to say in the 10 questions for 10 years challenge

  • Where were you 10 years ago?

    I was in New York. I left my English teaching job in Japan, after two years of singing, playing games and jumping around in a classroom. I randomly decided to travel to the States before growing up and properly ‘adulting’. Back then, WordPress had just come out and bloggers were posting on Google blogger, Tumblr and Live Journal. This was also the first time I started a blog and began writing, sharing my travel experiences in Japan and New York with friends and family. However, as much as I should say I am proud of this, I am thoroughly embarrassed about this blog and shall not reveal the url here. Nonetheless, the lessons learnt was my realisation in loving to write, about anything and everything.

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Review: The Cluedo Club Killings, King’s Head

A queered-up take on the murder mystery, The Cluedo Club Killings makes the most of a brief new run at the King’s Head Theatre

“I know whodunnit”

The King’s Head Theatre’s six-week Queer Season has allowed for all sorts of LGBTQI+ stories to be told but one of its more pleasing aspects has been the flexibility in the programming, offering opportunities for smaller productions to emerge once again. Guy: a new musical will be popping back to London and after a well-received run at the Arcola earlier this year, Robert Holtom’s The Cluedo Club Killings similarly took the chance to spread its wings once again.

A queered-up take on the murder mystery designed to take on “the cis-het sausage fest” of Morse, Poirot et al, Nat Kennedy’s production is an enjoyably daft thing and is at its best when it fully embraces the glitter-soaked camp and ridiculous OTT-ness at its heart. Stabs of dun-dun-duh music, a shattered fourth wall, lesbian wannabe detective leads, scorchingly funny TV reporters, and a post-modern take on not just detective stories but horror film too – what more could you want.  Continue reading “Review: The Cluedo Club Killings, King’s Head”

Review: East, King’s Head

“Tell how it chanced that we sworn mates were once the deadly poison of each other’s eye…”

On the one hand, Jessica Lazar’s production of Steven Berkoff’s East – returning to the very King’s Head theatre where it made its debut back in 1975 – is a ferociously charismatic whirlwind of stylised beauty and linguistic gymnastics that is an undoubted visceral thrill to watch and listen to. On the other though, there’s a definite sense of style over substance over the length of its two hours, and a problematic niggle about the play’s relationship to violence.

Set in the East End of yore, Berkoff uses his bastardised Shakespeare’n’slang prose style to depict the lives there with an extraordinary vigour. Nabbing a cigarette off a pal and violence, sex and violence, racism and violence, day trips to Southend and violence, bus rides on the number 38 and violence, beans on toast and violence – you get the picture. East in unapologetic in the bleakness of its vision for this substrata of society and in some ways, feel eerily prescient in that. Continue reading “Review: East, King’s Head”

Review: Beauty & The Beast (A Musical Parody), King’s Head

“What would Jane Austen do?”

Having embraced my inner Scrooge this Christmas by deciding not to see any productions of A Christmas Carol or any pantos either, my resolve was tested by the return of Fat Rascal to the London stage, a young company devoted to create “fresh and funny feminist musical theatre” and whose ode to the vibrator was an unexpected pleasure (ooh-er) last year. This year they’re blessing us with fewer sex toys in the form of Beauty & The Beast (A Musical Parody).

And not just any Beauty and the Beast, a gender-swapped one that gives us a Jane Austen-obsessed Beau, a swash-buckling Siobhan in place of Gaston and a Beast who is no less fearsome for being of the female variety. And though it is in the late-night slot at the King’s Head, bookwriters Robyn Grant and Daniel Elliot never make the mistake of overloading the smut (as many an adult panto is wont to do), preferring instead to just be really, really funny. Continue reading “Review: Beauty & The Beast (A Musical Parody), King’s Head”

Review: Coming Clean, King’s Head’s Queer Season

“We’ve shared each other round half the gay scene in London”

Between the news of its forthcoming move and expansion and the opening of a major nine week Queer Festival, there’s quite the buzz around the King’s Head at the moment, so I was keen to get stuck into the latter with a double bill of Kevin Elyot’s Coming Clean and a new play called Funeral Meats by Cradeaux Alexander.

The late Elyot is having a bit of a moment in London theatre. His final play – Twilight Song – is receiving a belated premiere at the Park Theatre and this production of Coming Clean marks the first major London revival for his first play, since it opened at the Bush in 1982. Thus the opportunity is there, should you wish to take it, to track the evolution of his writing, long dominated by his most famous play My Night With Reg. Continue reading “Review: Coming Clean, King’s Head’s Queer Season”

Review: Funeral Meats, King’s Head’s Queer Season

“It was necessary, normal, non-negotiable”

Cradeaux Alexander’s Funeral Meats is a more oblique piece than Coming Clean, set in the aftermath of a funeral where the remnants of the wake come together and clash – “I thought grief was supposed to bring people together” someone laments at one point. The deceased is Luke and Laura’s famous mother but the siblings aren’t close, and also thrown into the mix are Luke’s ex-husband Felix and the enigmatic Barbara, an old friend of the dead woman.

Over 5 short scenes running from 7pm through to midnight, they dig into their shared history and their fragmented present, a never-ending flow of booze loosening lips and inhibitions. Alexander coils his characters with all sorts of differing agendas, the legacies of the past having impacted on them in contrasting ways but in the relatively short space of time here, doesn’t quite unpack them all sufficiently. Continue reading “Review: Funeral Meats, King’s Head’s Queer Season”

Review: Holy Crap, King’s Head

“Paralysis sets in every time I try to sin”

There’s something to admire in the King’s Head’s devotion to offering something different for the Upper Street theatregoer – diverse programming with a decided LGBT focus, late night slots to allow festival-friendly shows a moment in the capital and to attract perhaps a different kind of audience. With Holy Crap though, it feels like a bit of a swing and a miss.

An 8.45pm start time and a 2 hours 15 minutes run time are uneasy bedfellows at the best of times and sad to say, these are not the best of times. Written by The Heather Brothers (best known for A Slice of Saturday Night), Holy Crap aims squarely for cult status with its bad-taste scything through religious hypocrisy and (the lack of) media ethics but in all honesty, it struggles to get past the barely puerile. Continue reading “Review: Holy Crap, King’s Head”

Review: The Chemsex Monologues, King’s Head

“He was wandering around topless, clearly drug-fucked, asking random guys to have sex. I took his hand and he grabbed me urgently, blue eyes intent and blazing.”

Patrick Cash’s The HIV Monologues slayed me last year so the opportunity to see another of his plays with Dragonflies Theatre was not one I wanted to pass up. The Chemsex Monologues did great business at the King’s Head last year and with that venue’s current tendency towards extremely LGBT-friendly material, it has made an unsurprising return here. Directed by Luke Davies, Cash’s storytelling winds together the tales of four people engaged – to varying degrees – in London’s chemsex scene. 

For the uninitiated – it’s a gay subculture where guys get high and have sex with each other, but as post-club chillout parties have been transformed by harder and harder drugs, it has become a world not without its challenges. And without judgement, without condemnation, The Chemsex Monologues gives a real insight into the ways in which people get drawn in. A sexual health worker feeling lonely, a guy who can’t believe his luck at pulling the fittest guy in the club and unwilling to let the night end, a faithful fag hag, a pretty boy with insecurities – anyone, everyone?  Continue reading “Review: The Chemsex Monologues, King’s Head”

Review: Adam & Eve….and Steve, King’s Head

“It’s fine for Sweden but not for Eden”

If you were so inclined, you could rip into Adam & Eve….and Steve for its tendency towards dramatic inconsistency and slight musical blandness but as Beelzebub pops up to tell us early on, it’s all “just a bit of heavenly humour”. And given that the show has thrived on the festival circuit (including Edinburgh last year) and is now playing in the late slot at the King’s Head, the temptation to take the Devil’s advice is a strong one.

For Adam & Eve… is affable indeed, enjoyable (particularly with a pint in hand) without ever straining too hard, and unashamedly light entertainment with its revisionist take on the Creation myth. Chandler Warren’s book posits a Garden of Eden where Eve’s temptation by an apple is matched with Adam’s temptation by an additional companion in Paradise called Steve, God’s plans for the human race thus thrown into disarray by the gays. Continue reading “Review: Adam & Eve….and Steve, King’s Head”

Review: Notflix, King’s Head

“Because everything’s better as a musical”

Between Austentatious and The Showstoppers, I’ve been thoroughly entertained (and consistently left in awe) by my dips into the world of improv so there’s always been a slight sense of trepidation about going further afield to see others do it, just in case they’re not as good! But the company to get me over myself were Waiting for the Call, the “original all-female long-form musical improv team”, and their promise of a unique blend of comedy, improv and musical group work.

Their show Notflix just played at the VAULT Festival and is following that up with a week at the King’s Head, ahead of a return to Edinburgh in the summer. And you can see why, as improv does carry with it a certain appeal to the festival market in its rapid-fire wit and scrappy energy and in that, WftC are certainly pitching themselves to the right places.  Continue reading “Review: Notflix, King’s Head”