5 STARS 13TH MAY 2019
Miss Act has nothing to prove now and it is very clear that her star is in ascendent mode, catapulting her into a different realm where she shines and sparkles. Courtney may have finished in second place in most of the shows she has appeared in – a fact she jokes about in her 60 minute show – but she pulls no punches with a strong opening number, a powerhouse vocal rendition of “It’s Oh So Quiet”. The content of the show is what we do under the covers: talk, eat, have sex… and the musical content covers her favourite songs which mean a lot to her and reinforces her message.
Courtney’s command of the stage is instant and she is prepared to bear her naked soul. Talking about growing up, she was confused about sexuality and identity and discovering and understanding the term of gender fluidity set her on her path to make her life journey easier and her quest to find mainstream stardom.
She adores drag and we love her for it. Of course she mentions RuPaul’s Drag Race, Celebrity Big Brother and appearing on the Australian version of Dancing with the Stars and pushing boundaries, dancing as a man with his partner. Courtney makes this show a very personal experience for her fans, informing us that she is now a vegan and that despite her best efforts she now finds herself passing wind a lot more. So, OK, there is 5 minutes of fart jokes complete with sound effects but she is allowed this and she brings a certain charm and sophistication to this part of her life – and makes if funny by reworking Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” to “Vegan It”, hysterical. Courtney explores the issues of sex – and using changes in tempo and emotional delivery offers her opinion.
Shane Jenek is a consummate performer and as Courtney Act he clearly presents closure on personal issues. He admits confession is good for the soul and by a stunning video playback sings “If I Were A Boy” with himself as a man; it’s simply captivating. Jenek’s belief in himself is commendable and the fact that we get readily caught up in his act makes him someone to watch and admire.
5 STARS 11TH JUNE 2019
Under the awesome, controlled and very precise direction of Tom O’Brien and with three intoxicating performances by Jesse Fox as Darius, Sean Hart as Josh and finally Danny Mahoney playing Alex, S. Asher Gelman’s play Afterglow exploded onto the Southwark Playhouse stage last night receiving its UK premiere. After the opening scene of full nudity, simulated penetrative sex and the guys reaching orgasm, the tagline for the play on the poster – The Climax is just the Beginning – could not have been more apt.
The play pulsates with a throbbing energy supported by a hard trance soundtrack that compels the audience to take notice. The three actors are sensational: dynamic, driven by a passion, equally sharing the stage and manoeuvring the set with a masculine force that is compelling to witness.
Gelman’s skill as a writer is superb with themes running through the play of the quest to find the perfect mate, the effects of jealousy in an open relationship, playing by the rules, breaking those rules, the power of adoration and manipulation, knowing your self worth, that keeping a secret can be damaging and finally to be very careful of what you wish for.
Afterglow is an emotional rollercoaster beautifully played out and offers a deep look and an informed dissection of being in an open gay relationship. A perfect three way. Totally captivating; modern theatre at it’s very enthralling best. A must see this season.
Photo by Darren Bell
5 STARS 3RD JUNE 2019
Them/Us is a fascinating two part evening that explores exactly what the human body can achieve via the medium of dance from the BalletBoyz.
Them, a collaboration between the dancers Rehearsal Director Charlotte Pook and Artistic Directors Michael Nunn and William Trevitt is a high octane demonstration of the beauty of movement, that is aggressive, masculine intense complex and at the same time chic. With a video opening the sequence we meet the dancers, eight stunning men who explain their method, their approach to dance and what it means to them. Using the space and the inside and outside of a large open box, made of scaffolding poles, moving it about the stage with impressive coordination. These guys have such control of their limbs giving the piece an urban feel to it by being dressed in tracksuits. Special mention has to be made of Benjamin Knapper, Harry Price and Bradley Waller whose agility was exquisite and captivating, fundamentally expressing what the male frame is capable of.
Us, the second part of the evening, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon OBE is a spellbinding showcase of dance as a language. There was a sexual chemistry between the men, without being a study of homo eroticism, but of trust, creating living sculptures. The whole show is magnificent with a dream like quality that was completely enchanting.
4 STARS 20TH MAY 2019
La Voix is a star and there is no mistaking the power she exudes taking the roof off the Spiegeltent Tent at this year’s Underbelly Festival running at the Southbank. Opening with a sensational, rousing rendition of “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You”, the scene was set for a 60 minute whirlwind of gags, self deprecating humour and THAT voice – and with a live band behind her the atmosphere was incredible.
La Voix knows how to work a room and her line of patter is right on the money, topical, satirical and enormously witty – for instance suggesting that Teresa May’s new theme song should be the torch song ballad from Dreamgirls “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”. It’s funny tinged with poignancy. The bawdy side of the act partnered with such an elegant delivery just made the audience warm to her even more.
Paying tribute to Garland, Minnelli, Bassey, Turner and Cher, La Voix’s skill as a mimic was abundant. Although comic this was not derogatory, this was an affectionate homage. Closing with a powerhouse performance of “I Am What I Am”, the song could be re-titled “She Is What She Is”. A born entertainer, simply stunning. Live, loud and fabulous.
5 STARS 24TH MAY 2019
I first saw this mesmerising and stunning piece of verbatim theatre back in June 2018 and this is a timely production two years on since the tragedy of the Manchester bombing where 22 people were killed, including Martyn Hett, at the Ariana Grande concert.
Adam Zane and Mike Lee’s play has now been revised and further developed. The two of them have been on an emotional journey with this exceptional cast headed by Joseph Carter as Mikey and Matthew Forey as Russell. The story of Martyn Hett – who so adored the character of Deirdre Barlow in Coronation Street that he had a tattoo of the actress Anne Kirkbride on his calf muscle – is told with great skill and affection.
This play remains fresh, charming, very funny and delightful and highlights that at times Martyn could be a nightmare, a ‘control freak’ but that he was adored for his various foibles. This is a vivid homage to a boy whose life was cut so dramatically short, but it is not morose. There is a wonderful sense of storytelling. The poignant use of recall with actual video footage remembering times and events, especially at Martyn’s home in Stockport, where he had created his own bar/club called The Frigg, and this emotional reminiscing showcased the value of friendship, self worth and bonding.
Zane’s stylised direction was masterful and achieved from this superb ensemble cast notably Carl Blakeley as Stuart and Bridget Gallagher as Hannah, Calum Scott as Alastair, Daniel Maley as Andrew, Chloe Proctor as Christina and lastly Sonia Ibrahim as Rachel. A story told with dignity, passion about what can be achieved when people unite for a common cause. This is a must see – and with the play heading for Brighton, Newcastle, Sheffield and Salford do check it out (www.hopetheatrecompany/be-more-martyn for venue details). Highly recommended.
5 STARS 16TH MAY 2019
The works of Oscar Wilde have been examined, dissected, reimagined and scrutinised almost to the same level as Shakespeare. It’s often clear that when he is making an observation or comment on social issues his plays also can offer an insight to him as a man and with Salome this is indeed the case.
In this marvellous, riveting ‘no holds barred’ production of Salome at The Greenwich Theatre, the action is now set in 2019. The cast, notably Jamie O’Neill as Herod, Bailey Pilbeam as Salome and a magnificent Jamal Renaldo, playing Jokanaan (John the Baptist) are totally immersed in their respective roles. Their passionate and articulate delivery using body gestures as well as words made for a two hour sensual experience that is powerful and provocative. The production directed by Ricky Dukes, who also designed this superb version is packed with sexual tension giving it a peep show quality. Dukes examines issues of retribution, betrayal and the dangerous power of attraction whilst weaving in references to contemporary culture including our reactions to ‘fake news’. The splendid ensemble cast bounce of each other and where references are made to the biblical story, they inform and delight. There is a glorious camp and enigmatic feel to this lesson in lust from Wilde. This is another groundbreaking production from the Lazarus Theatre company who continue to make their impressive mark.
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Friendship is a wonderful thing