Review: Queer Theatre – Wig Out, National

#2 in the National Theatre’s Queer Theatre season of rehearsed readings

“Here
Where one night can leave you legendary
Or a subsidiary”

The world has changed just a little in the decade or so since Tarell Alvin McCraney wrote Wig Out. McCraney is now an Oscar-winning writer after the phenomenal success of Moonlight (based on one of his unproduced plays) and RuPaul has dragged drag into the mainstream by its charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. So to see the play now is an entirely different prospect than its 2008 production at the Royal Court and an interesting example of how cultural touchstones shift.

Wig Out feels intimately connected to Paris Is Burning (if you’ve not seen it, to Netflix with you now) in its focus on ball culture in the black and Latino gay communities of New York and we get to see it fully turned out as the House of Light take on their rivals in the House of Diabolique. The ball scene is an unalloyed pleasure as outré performance follows outré performance (Craig Stein and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith took the honours for the night) and really make you want to see a fully fledged production.

Continue reading “Review: Queer Theatre – Wig Out, National”

Review: Queer Theatre – The Drag, National

 

#5 in the National Theatre’s Queer Theatre season of rehearsed readings

Last but by no means least in this queer season is the one play written by a straight person and perhaps the queerest of the lot. Mae West wrote The Drag in 1927 where its frankness about gay lives (and once again, drag ball culture!) scandalised its out-of-town Connecticut and New Jersey audiences so that it never made it to Broadway. But Polly Stenham has opted to revive it for this reading and to introduce it to a new (Alaska Thunderfuck-literate) crowd. 

To be brutally honest, it isn’t the greatest play in the world, but what it does do is hold a fascinating mirror to early 20th century attitudes and how tolerance and intolerance existed side by side, then as now; the safe spaces gay men find in order to be their extravagantly true selves equally as timeless. And closet cases in marriages remain a sad truth, if not quite as dramatic as the son of a homophobic judge married to the daughter of a gay conversion therapist that we get here! Continue reading “Review: Queer Theatre – The Drag, National”

Review: Angels in America, National Theatre

“It isn’t easy, it doesn’t count if it’s easy, it’s the hardest thing. Forgiveness. Which is maybe where love and justice finally meet”

In the many aspects of Angels in America that there are to enjoy and appreciate, the richness of Tony Kushner’s writing was not one that I was particularly expecting. But at several points throughout the many, many hours of the two-show press day, it felt like Kushner was almost writing in pull-quotes, such was the vividness of the language that was resonating from the stage of the Lyttelton. So to reflect that, I’m structuring this post a little differently to a traditional review, using some of those quotes to trigger and collect some of my thoughts. 

“The great work begins”

Such was the ‘noise’ around this 25th anniversary production of these shows that it was impossible to ignore the fevered level of expectation and that’s something I find a little hard to deal with. I’d never seen them onstage before, nor succumbed to the temptation of watching the HBO miniseries, wanting to be able to make up my own mind about them. But it is so difficult in this day and age, to dissociate from the chatter around the theatre I love. Plus the fact that so many exciting names were attached to the cast and creative listings – Marianne Elliott directing the likes of Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield, Olivier winner Denise Gough, bona fide cultural institution Nathan Lane…I mean who couldn’t get just a bit excited. Continue reading “Review: Angels in America, National Theatre”

Angels in America – a fantasia on how to get tickets for a sold-out show.

Tickets for Angels in America sold out very quickly- a mark of the excitement for this 25th anniversary production of Tony Kushner’s epic, but the folks at the National have come up with three ways that you can still catch the show and this bunch of jobbing actors (pictured by Helen Maybanks) have kindly re-enacted the experience of trying to get tickets for the show… Continue reading “Angels in America – a fantasia on how to get tickets for a sold-out show.”

Album Review: Kinky Boots (Original West End Cast Recording)

“I am freedom, I’m constriction
A potpourri of contradiction”

With rather serendipitous timing, the West End cast recording for Cyndi Lauper’s score for Kinky Boots is released just in time for the show’s Best New Musical victory at this year’s Olivier awards. And it is particularly good news for fans of the show as up until now, we’ve had to make do with the Broadway cast recording and their, challenging shall we say, approach to the requisite British accents.

Recorded live at the Adelphi with the original West End cast (including Best Actor in a Musical winner Matt Henry and nominees Killian Donnelly and Amy Lennox), it’s a welcome addition to playlists and CD collections everywhere.

The live recording is be a double-edged sword – there can be more raw energy than one might expect from a recording booth and that comes in the form of an audible audience. I quite like to hear their laughter, especially when it is from something familiar as in the comic genius of Lennox’s performance of ‘The History of Wrong Guys’ here, but the applause at the end of each track is jarring when listening to the album as a whole. And I’m not 100% certain but I’m pretty sure there’s someone coughing a couple of times which is a shame (though perfectly replicates sitting through pretty much any show!). Continue reading “Album Review: Kinky Boots (Original West End Cast Recording)”

Re-review: Kinky Boots, Adelphi

Funk it up till it’s ostentatious
Dress it up, it feels contagious”

Now extended through to May next year, the signs for Kinky Boots look cautiously positive though nothing is certain in the cut-throat world of new musicals and on this second viewing, it really does feel like a well-deserved success. Jerry Mitchell’s production is a ray of tightly choreographed, dragged-up sunshine but what I loved about going back was finding that several of the tunes from Cyndi Lauper’s accomplished score have successfully navigated earworm territory to become properly memorable. 

‘Everybody Say Yeah’ and ‘Raise You Up/Just Be’ end the show’s two acts in brilliantly rousing fashion, ‘Sex is in the Heel’ and ‘What A Woman Wants’ give Matt Henry’s Lola ample opportunity to fill the stage with exuberant personality and Amy Lennox continues to pretty much steal the show, not least in ‘The History of Wrong Guys’. And Killian Donnelly effortlessly smooths over some of Charlie’s more dubious character flaws (poor Nicola…) by scorching through hits like ‘Soul of a Man’. Continue reading “Re-review: Kinky Boots, Adelphi”