By Leo and Hyde
The Bunker (London) until 7th July 2018
New musical GUY explores identity, the complexity of friendships, self-esteem and finding love. Although the plot in Leo and Hyde’s production could benefit from further development along with some of the characters relationships GUY is a contemporary and gender fresh show. Some excellent vocal performances are featured – along with pleasant anti clichés – as we follow Guy (Brendan Matthews), an insecure 20 something graphic designer & video game enthusiast on his journey for love. All in a dating app driven world that focuses heavily on appearances and one-night stands.
The cast offered up honest performances. The acting style focussed on mostly naturalistic responses and true to life actions, something that is often lost in musical theatre to a favoured presentational style. Matthews as the lead is a steady showman, he is coyly humorous and convincingly insecure and desperate. Vocally he is bold and comfortable in his range. Steve Banks was engaging, funny and grounded as best friend Tyler and is a performer who trusts and follows his instincts. Sean Miley-Moore as liberating Aziz is a playful and free performer, he is beautifully gender non-binary in his aesthetic and had several stand out vocal moments, particularly in Supression Effect. He has a clear tone and executed some impressive 90s style runs.
There was a juvenile layer to some of the theatrical aspects of the production. In moments the physical action felt very staged. The miming of props, moving blocks to create new scenes, repetitive and cold transitions didn’t help the cause. The plot focussed too heavily on dating apps – this felt limiting to the queer experience. Towards the end the story went very wayward and needed some clarifying and directorial navigation as the conflict – which should have come as a catalyst of change – became a messy and unclear spectacle. These elements could however be easily ironed out with further creative development.
Some of the stronger elements of the show were director Sam Ward’s choices against the pleather of gay clichés in British theatre that have a banal effect on productions. We saw this predominantly in the portrayal of gay men in a musical – and in particular one focusing so heavily on queer culture – that were not just a constant flow of overly camp caricatures. We were given different body types, characteristics, layers of masculinity and femininity and external sexual expression. Although I would have liked to see this pushed even further, diverse queer casts like this will help to break down gender constraints and gay stereotypes.
GUY accurately explores the struggle of finding love and then finding the confidence to know that you are worthy of receiving it. It is a humorous musical about real people with a couple of catchy songs and four bold performers all with great vocal ability. Despite a few missed creative opportunities and development needed the show most importantly sets strong standards for the future of gay representation in theatre.
© Bj McNeill 2018
This show is running until the 7th July at The Bunker Theatre. Book now.