4 STARS 16TH OCTOBER 2020
Originally conceived by Robert Shrock and then written by a gamut of accomplished writers, Naked Boys Singing is a pure hoot. With the opening number entitled Gratuitous Nudity the audience knew what they were getting into. This is not smut – or even vulgar – this is a celebration of the human body, the beautiful male form in all its guises, shapes, colours, ethnicity, tall, short, thin and podgy – we never use the word fat.
Rambunctious, raunchy and racy, the six gentlemen – namely Liam Asplen, Nick Brittain, Daniel Ghezzi, Kane Hoad, Daniel Noah and Jensen Tudtud are totally immersed in their respective roles and the fact they are naked does not distract from the skill each of them have in executing their craft. The group harmonies are tight and very polished and when the guys perform their individual numbers they are allowed to exhibit their total talent. Certain songs, The Bliss of the Bris for example, are comedy gold, landing right on the entertainment target.
High camp combined with beautiful melodies made the whole thing zip along with a zeal and zest that has to be applauded. Stand out was Nick Brittain whose command of his role with his renditions of his solos Mr Entertainer and Robert Mitchum, both very clever ditties, were performed with a tailored elegance.The whole thing works because of a very well planned running order of the songs, changing the pace and mood and going someway to explain the characters that were singing them, perhaps far more than if the actors were delivering spoken lines.
The comedy element of the show is exceptional, especially the number I Beat My Meat, and with the clever use of props, just makes the ensemble number complete. There is also a romantic vibe applied and when a certain style of music is lampooned, in this case the light operetta world of Gilbert and Sullivan, this is a glorious send up.I totally enjoyed Naked Boys Singing and what is achieved here is a fabulous attempt to ask an audience to unwind, relax and enjoy a rip-roaring night of theatre that can only put a huge grin across your face. Keats said: ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’; he was correct!
Photos by NatLPho
4 STARS 18THSEPTEMBER 2020
Pippin was ‘poppin’ as these six thrilling and wonderful actors performed with such a sheer sense of enjoyment. This was Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson’s frisky, sexy musical of their now classic Broadway Pippin.
This is a very slick and charming production under Stephen Dexter’s erudite direction and Pippin, played by a very watchable Ryan Anderson, displays a gentle innocence as he decides to find the meaning of his existence and whether he needs to choose a happy but simple life or risk everything for a singular flash of glory.
The other cast members Tsemaye Bob-Egbe, Tanisha-Mae Brown, Joanna Clifton, Harry Francis and Dan Krikler sizzle. The troupe are captivating to watch as they perform dance routines in the unique style and wit of Bob Fosse. The show is choreographed by Nick Winston whose skill just makes the whole running time an eye-catching physical, as well as a song-and-dance, visual treat. The cast make use of every inch of this well planned outdoor theatre space, beautifully lit by Richard Lambert, enhancing the mood and temperament of the whole musical.
A highlight is the show-stopper “Corner of the Sky” with a heartfelt rendition by Ryan Anderson whose exquisite and emotional delivery demonstrated his superb control of his vocal range.
This is a fine look at the power that an alternative culture can have with class, family loyalty and respect, and self sacrifice being put under the microscope by Schwartz and Hirson.
Pippin is full of hippy merriment where the effects of conflict, religious beliefs that do and have led to war, and the pursuit of glory are examined with a vivacious vibrancy and with the clever use of clever comedy presented to us with a polished confidence. Of special note Joanna Clifton who masters the task of encouraging audience participation via a singalong with gusto becoming a true crowd pleaser. The lyric we are asked to sing is “Yes, it’s time to start livin’”. A poignant message as we have to hope that this pandemic ends.
This is a spell-binding, unforgettable new Pippin and is a must-see as we return to some kind of normality and enjoy theatre as it is meant to be enjoyed.
This is an exceptional ensemble piece that delights on every level.
The cast and crew have waved their collective wand and got a hit on their hands.
4 STARS 25TH OCTOBER 2020
For me the sign of a good comic is that they draw from and perhaps even rely on what has happened to them in their lives and with Mr (Doctor) Adam Kay that is most certainly the case.
He arrived on stage in full PPE kit, clean but nor sterile with an immediate delivery of material as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel. His humour is relaxed with a laid back subtlety to it tinged with an acerbic style.
Kay means business and the delivery of his 70 minute set is full of quips and observational remarks as he recalls his years as a junior doctor working his way up through the ranks and quoting from his dairies. His anecdotes and how he explains what a doctor actually does were presented with the very clever use of song. Taking Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and turning it into a running gag where audience participation was called for and we were more than prepared, after some gentle coaxing, to sing along as he changed the lyrics to the anthem.
Kay know how to work a room and despite recalling some tender and tragic events that he witnessed as a doctor he also told of crazy times and that people’s misfortunes were, and could be, incredibly funny.
Of course the whole Covid debacle came up and he asked us to celebrate the NHS and the people working in it. The last five minutes did have Kay putting across his political point of view and I could not chastise him for that.
A memorable night of sublime theatre where Kay’s skill as a wordsmith was clearly on show.
5 STARS 11th FEBRUARY 2020
Writer Jonathan Harvey and Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have created in Musik a made to measure role for Frances Barber who stars as outrageous Billie Trix, an icon, rock star, screen goddess and drug addict. This new show explores the backstory of Billie Trix from the original London run of Closer to Heaven.
It’s a potent role that showcases Barber’s amazing skills as a performer; a mesmerising female libertine. The hour long one woman show is a fantastic and very funny assault on the senses. She is out to mock and shock; bringing to life a larger than life character. If Harvey has been influenced by the halcyon days of Marianne Faithfull and Amanda Lear that just adds to the significance of the role which Barber executes so beautifully.
This is also an interesting look at modern art, or what can be perceived as art. Billie Trix has met them all: Warhol, Dalì, Pollock, Zappa, Hirst and even a young Donald Trump. This is enhanced name-dropping and with each name came a very funny and naughty anecdote. Tennant and Lowe also take a look at the fauxness of celebrity and via clever musical numbers deconstruct the power of an icon. This linked to Harvey’s swish and swirl of his pen like a satirical sword, makes for seamless dialogue that Barber has a huge control over.
This is high octane, blistering entertainment lampooning the premise that because she has suffered for her art that must make her a good artist. Trix loves her life and is enjoying and savouring every moment with a vibrancy and fullness that is just spectacular.
This is very stylish theatre directed by Josh Seymour and what is achieved is a total sense of contentment as the fade to black happens as Billie Trix leaves the theatre through the audience cackling and cursing in her own inimitable style. Frances Barber gives a tour de force. Superb!
Photos by Marc Brenner
5 STARS 14th FEBRUARY 2020
When I first saw Tom Wright’s play Undetectable back in March last year when it was receiving its world premiere I immediately felt I was watching something special and garnished it with 5 stars and offered rapturous praise to all concerned.
This sentiment still rings true almost a year on. With actors Lewis Brown as Bradley and Freddie Hogan as Lex both reprising their roles and director and designer Rikki Beadle-Blair firmly at the helm, the whole thing is a poignant joy from start to finish.
This is a very powerful play and should be seen by as many as possible regardless of sexual orientation or gender as Wright transverses these elements with a knock out punch that hits right at the heart of the effect of feeling certain emotions.
The synergy between Brown and Hogan has intensified dramatically as both have clearly and firmly sunk their teeth into performing these parts with an intensity that is sensational and extremely sexy.
Wright looks at the apprehension of being intimate which can lead to discomfort, the way his characters deal with anxiety, understanding core values and that trust has to be earned. There is a particularly moving scene about PrEP with Wright giving a suggestion that by using it people need not to be scared – a very timely comment.
This is an astounding two hander that has matured and still maintains a premise that being yourself, and the power that comes with that, is paramount in today’s world. Cutting edge theatre and a well deserved revival. Intense stuff indeed.
Now with an expanded text from the original production it is also very clear that Wright has made the play ahead of the curve in its ideas; the world has caught up and it’s bang on the moment. The play echoes my own opinion that I am becoming increasingly tired with talking about chemsex issues and that gay men are on a path to self destruction. This is not true. Undetectable is a pertinent piece of theatre for 2020.
4 STARS 15th OCTOBER 2020
It’s very clear that the Above The Stag producers have a penchant for staging good work and with Jonathan Tolins’ Buyer & Cellar this is indeed the case. Originally slotted to run back in March – then you know what hit and all that ensued – but the wait has been worth it.
Aaron Sidwell plays Alex More, a struggling out of work actor recently fired from Disneyland, living in L.A., who lands himself a job working in Barbra Streisand’s basement, organising and chaperoning her legendary street of shops. A literal shopping mall which real life Streisand has created beneath her Malibu home, full of her memorabilia.
This is a very funny monologue with director Andrew Beckett getting from Sidwell a performance full of passion and panache, coaxing out of him that little bit of extra razzle-dazzle as he moves around the stage with a controlled excitement which explains his character in great depth and detail.
This is perfect casting with Sidwell enigmatic and clearly relishing in the fact he is now performing in front of a live audience albeit socially distanced.
Sidwell’s rhythmic and fluid delivery of the piece including all the very necessary Yiddish, Jewish, Hebrew references and at times factual mentions about Streisand’s life – add totally to the magic.
This is a look at the art of adoration with Sidwell as More reflecting on his own aspirations and how he sees his life shaping up with or without a boyfriend.
As gay men are we predisposed to like women like Barbra, Judy, Cher, Liza, Diana, Marilyn, Madonna…? Who can say for sure but it’s not such a bad thing to idolise someone who brings joy to the world, even if we also like to find out all the nitty gritty of these human beings and what makes them tick.
Aaron Sidwell is at the top of his game with a very strong grasp of the material.
The play’s poster states: ‘One man’s adventures in Barbra Streisand’s basement’ and it was; a charming and at times a very moving and poignant look at celebrity, and how we all want or need to live our lives.
Photos by PBG Studios
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