Review: Denim: The World Tour

Review – Denim: The World Tour
3.5*
The Soho Theatre
Denim: The World Tour opens with a Lady Gaga number, immediately followed by a jab at how “progressive” that is, which lets the audience know the theme and tone of the rest of the evening, making room for subsequent subversive numbers, mixing pop, politics, religion, and queer culture, whilst not taking itself too seriously.
The show follows this drag queen group – Crystal, Aphrodite, Shirley, Glamrou, and Elektra – in their hilarious delusion of performing at Wembley in front of 80,000 adoring fans, in a combination of group and individual numbers, where various girlband clichés get acted out. From the acoustic number with over the top gesturing, to reading adoring fan mail; from statements about dreams and freedom, and shouts of “I love you Wembley”! In a way, it reminded me of my own dreams of being a pop star when I was younger, and I guess many people may be able to relate to that fantasy of being on a stage, singing and dancing, and receiving adoration from thousands of fans, which can make this show quite heart-warming, as well as fun and provocative.
Each drag personae has a very distinct style and message, with three standout solo performances by Crystal and Elektra, who delivered astounding vocals in their respective parodying solos of Beyoncé and Conchita Wurst, without ever toning down the emotive appeal of those two performers. Glamrou, as ‘the Muslim Iraqi immigrant queen living here in the UK’, illuminates the often-complicated relationship between queer culture and religion, reminding us of the dire lived experiences of many of our LGBTQ+ peers around the world.
A fun, heart-warming, and intelligent mix of pop and queer cultures, of old and current affairs, and of gender politics, the true strength of Denim: The World Tour, lies in its focus on comradery and mutual support of differences within the queer community, as stated in their original number where they sing about the denim way:
“We are, a sister and a brother
This time, we’ll be here for one another.”
On at The Soho Theatre until 3rd Feb.  Book now. 
©Ryan CV 2018Denim Composite.jpg
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Review: The Break-Up Monologues

RichMix, Shoreditch
4*

I entered Rich Mix in Shoreditch late and annoyed, as with most weekends the worst enemy of my social life: TFL had struck again. As soon as they opened the doors of Venue 2 at Rich Mix, where broadcaster Rosie Wilby was performing, I noticed two things: I wasn’t sneaking in unnoticed, as weren’t other women coming in later than me; Rosie was making jokes about us; and secondly, it was not going to be a normal stand up show, because the audience kept on laughing at each other; I saw that interaction was going to be a great part of the night.  After 10 minutes my girlfriend and I were thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere.

Curiosity, love, troubles, we were all laughing at everything that made us linked with each other: women! All over the room, women of all ages were laughing with their own kind of laugh, with their own kind of friends or their own kind of solitude, openly enjoying the jokes about how crazy we can all be, as dumpers and dumped. Rosie started reading some pages from her book “Is Monogamy Dead?”, which made me consider buying it for Kindle there and then, and also whether I would be as funny reading it as she was.

It was time for the guests: Sarah Keyworth, VG Lee and Elf Lyons, who was shortlisted for Best Show Award at Edinburgh Fringe 2017. They represented a range different lesbian stereotypes within their work: the young lesbian, always chasing troubles and straight girls; the older lesbian, which instead of frequenting bridge clubs insists on lesbian disco nights in the local pub on the south coast; and lastly, the sharp bisexual, who’s a born dumper and addresses her acidity to the firm and simple belief that she’s just insane.

It was a show I’d want to be a part of again the day after! Rosie thoroughly got me, she’s just a funny women, one you’d really want as a friend and one of the few comedians that makes you laugh for real. What a great Friday evening.

Review L.S 2018

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Film Review: Mixed Messages

From BAFTA nominated writer/director Kanchi Wichmann –  who last brought us the off-beat lesbian drama Break My Fall –  comes the equally stylised lo-fi rom-com, Mixed Messages.
It follows thirty-something Ren as she navigates her way through a year on the queer scene in Berlin and struggles to find connection in the post-trendy world of polyamory, BDSM and militant veganism.
The film percolates a quirky, awkward humour full of community in-jokes and character types that are instantly recognisable – like the secretly pining best mate and the drunk girl who’s always lost something. It captures the quiet agony of dating and making a fool of yourself for the faint glimmer of love or sex.
What struck me most was the aesthetic diversity of the film – the characters are a rich variety of body-shapes, ethnicties and gender identities that seemed like a realistic and celebratory portrayal of the queer community and a refreshing antidote to the straight-washed, euphemised filters we’re so used to seeing applied to our stories. The variety of international accents and the constant language switch between English and German effectively captures the cultural melting-pot that is Berlin.
Mixed Messages has a gently fluctuating plotline and decides to put most of its focus on character and conversation. The rolling pace and the cinematic cut-aways of European life makes it feel like a super gay Before Sunrise; except instead of a burgeoning romance between two people, it’s a frantic search for connection between one hopeless romantic and an ever-revolving circuit of potentials and disasters. It’s an irreverently honest and rough queer love story that will be highly relatable to a lot of people.
Find out more here
©CSM 2017
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Review: Ma, Am I Good in Bed?

4*
Maiden Speech Double Bill, Leicester Square Theatre
Lexi Clare Productions

This two-hander production was both written and performed by sisters, Róisín and Sinéad Bevan and directed by Emily Aboud. My excitement at seeing an entirely female created and produced piece abounded; it was certainly a refreshing situation to be in. The lively and intimate size of the Leicester Square Lounge space was immediately reflected in this piece, as the audience were invited into the minds of these two very different siblings. Their open and frank dialogue revealed the secrets and stories of their lives, their sisterly bond apparent from the beginning, I wasn’t in the least surprised to learn that they were related in reality. I immediately felt as though I wanted to know them better.

The narrative seamlessly weaved between the present and flashbacks of the past. There were hints of Brechtian influence throughout, from the blackboard that was clearly marked with all of our destinations so that we all knew where we were meant to be at any given time; Nightclub, Uber, Flat, Bed, and the use of a feather boa to demonstrate the mother’s character. These flashbacks of their childhood brought the otherwise absent third character of the mother to life, not least through innovative use of lighting, but the way each girl transformed with a different posture, air of confidence, and a comedic Irish accent to boot. More contemporary theatre should have 1980’s power ballads as a musical backdrop, even if my favourite interlude was a unique rendition of Martha Wainright’s, “Bloody Motherfucking Asshole”

The way in which the two sisters gently encouraged a small amount of audience participation (who wouldn’t want a mid show cornflake break?) broke the fourth wall in a gentle way that somehow further perpetuated the idea that we were witnessing a snapshot of their life rather than a staged production.

Their uniquely female perspective on everything from politics to childhood bullies and relationships drove home the inequalities women still face and were of the ilk that needs to be shouted from the rooftops. And the manner in which passing nudity and sexuality were side topics that only formed a small part of a female identity was equally refreshing. The more serious moments, such as the younger sister’s open letter to her rapist, came from a truth that was all too relatable, although that shouldn’t be the case. Her refusal to be seen as a victim resonated at the core.

These two siblings have demonstrated that we need more female voices and more female led theatre but that we are being heard and I hope to hear more from them in the near future.

This production has now closed, but follow @LexiClareNZ on Twitter for future updates.

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Review: Panto – Puss in Kinky Boots

The Bridewell Theatre

If you work in Central London and are looking for an office Christmas treat, why not give the Christmas Panto at the Bridewell a go?  I have to admit, it was my first time at this theatre in the centre of town, but it was cosy and welcoming – tucked away just behind Fleet Street.

Unapologetically rough around the edges (cardboard set and projections used to set the scene), but crammed with Panto cheer, this politically charged, fun and bawdy panto is a brilliant way to spend a lunchtime.

Warm up your vocal chords beforehand and be prepared to holler all of the panto favourites (‘He’s behind you’ etc). It’s relatively innocent in its humour, bar a carefully placed Puss joke here and there, meaning unlikely to offend – making it a safe bet to take your boss, or your grandparents along to, unless they’re die hard Brexiteers, in which case it may not be for them. It takes a wry look at London, from its hipster cafes, to its corrupt politicians to its gay saunas. Recognisable characters, cast as stereotypes frequently got a laugh of recognition.

We meet Sally, played by Jeremy Edwards, who has a way with improvisational chat to the audience and gives out sweets on the way in – a sure way to get an audience on side. Sophie Rose Miller plays Puss, she is cute, cunning and carries the story well, everything you’d hope for in a panto puss.  In fact the entire cast do a great job at keeping the pace up for this speedy panto (it’s 45 minutes, so you really can see it on your lunch break!)

All in all it’s a great, inoffensive laugh and a whistlestop tour of British politics through the medium of panto.

On until 20th Dec. Book now.

 

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Review: Callisto: a queer epic

The Arcola Theatre
5*

What first struck me when walking in to the space was the three strip lights that were suspended above the audience. It looked very stylish and something I hoped would be utilised well within the production. I wasn’t disappointed. Matthew Swithinbank’s lighting is very well placed within the piece; it is atmospheric and manages to be wonderfully understated at times, but is also able to punctuate other moments within the piece that are quite powerful.

This also the same for the composition by Tom Stafford that really serves the play and is well judged.

The stories within Callisto are fascinating and shine a light on some moments in Queer history that I was unaware of and have since researched. Each story weaves in and out of each other is way that is engaging and well pitched. Thomas Bailey has directed clever overlapping of scenes and worlds that is visually very satisfying, but also cohesively ties the characters together. There is great detail in the relationships and characters that are brought to life by a very strong cast. Those who multirole, do this with great assurance and present distinctive and nuanced touches to each character. The tension within certain scenes is gripping, yet this is brilliantly contrasted in other scenes that, although dark, are really witty. The ‘film shooting scene’ and Amy’s disguise are real standouts.

Every cast member has a great command of the text and show real vocal dexterity; accents and period are carefully observed and skilfully executed, by all. Phoebe Hames brings real weight to Isobel and her scenes with Darren Siah (whose Turning is gentle and endearing) are really emotionally charged and engaging. Georgie Bruce is excellent as both Amy and Melissa. She has brilliant comic ability and timing, but also draws us in by showing Amy’s strength in one scene and vulnerability in another. Marilyn Hadebe brings great status, stillness and poise to the role of Arabella, whereas Francesca Zoutewelle embodies Tammy with brilliant lightness and her performance is wonderfully understated and detailed. Nicholas Finerty displays real warmth and tenderness in his role of Cal and by stark contrast an absorbing oily, lecherous quality to Harold. Mary Higgins oozes a great sense of danger and unpredictability in Lola that is very engaging and mesmerising. Jonny Purkiss’s multi-rolling is also superb. He shifts between his hugely contrasting roles demonstrating great versatility and skill. His portrayal Richard really packs a punch with his brashness and bravado.

Hal Coase’s dialogue is sharp, witty and at times very moving. His language is feels very authentic to each time period and really enables us to buy into each world. The writing has the ability to cut through a very dark and sometimes absurd scenario with a line that allow us to laugh whilst also enabling to take stock of the these high stake situations. I will now definitely follow his work as this play is exciting and brave.

Each story could be a play in it’s own right and 2223 (set in the future) would work really well as a longer stand alone piece. It didn’t engage me as much as the other stories, partly because the others are rooted in a historical truth and the future is unknown and therefore very interpretive. I also slightly struggled with the language in 2223 because it was so vastly different to the other stories that every time we came back to it, it took me a while to tune into the scenes and therefore stopped me from engaging as much as I wanted.

Thomas Bailey has carried out a fantastic of bringing together every element in this production and transporting us to a different world without any frills. Having no set is a bold, but excellent move as it make the changes uncomplicated and really allows us to focus on these rich stories and vivid characters.

Callisto really takes us on a big journey that for the most part is engrossing from start to end.

Callisto will run at The Arcola until 23rd Dec 2017.  Book Now. 

© S.L.C 2017

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Review: ROLLER

4*
By Mars.tarrab
Barbican – The Pit

Gathered in the Barbican Pit, we are greeted by two deity-esque figures (Rachel Mars and Nat Tarrab), looming over us – magnificent and terrifying.  They make no bones and waste no time in reaching the point of their arrival – they are here to talk about the patriarchy. They are here to talk about change and the fact that after myriad years, it is now time for that change. They could be placed as travellers from the past or future, yet they are also screamingly of the present – and of course, they can be and are all three.

Using Roller Derby as a starting point for explorations – a contact sport, which is predominately female and often queer (with the Vagine Regime being a huge Roller Derby movement in The States and now also here) – they use the strength and power that women use in this sport to highlight where strength and action may be more usefully placed (over killing a dog or attacking an innocent audience member, as Mars demonstrates).

There have been a string of successful books in recent years which echo the tones of this show, from The Carhullian Army, by Sarah Hall to this year’s hit The Power, by Naomi Alderman.  Both of which explore women seizing back power, and what happens when they do – this piece felt very much in line with this school of thinking.  The anger and motivation is raw and real, and satisfying. It reflects much of the anger I’m sure we feel and have felt in recent months (and years) following the news of sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood, theatre, politics and everywhere else. The anger is refreshing, to see, to be that close to it – we are so often told to ‘calm down’ – ROLLER is a reverberating reminder that correctly placed anger can change the world.

It was a delight to see a show delivered by a team of women, but also with huge diversity within that team –  Mars.tarrab have clearly reached beyond standard casting techniques to construct a diverse team for this show – far more representative than any company I’ve seen on stage in recent years. These women pave the way – perhaps for a Roller Derby game, but far more likely for the change that is to come. The voice of a child concludes the show, and I’m left with the image of her alone skating the stage. They leave us with a reminder that the next next generation are growing, and again it is time to try to change things for them – it was was both hopeful and disconcerting.

The anger and ideas were huge, underlined by intricate and often direct language which felt good to listen to – I certainly left having been powered-up and prepared for the revolution, but also ready to sit quietly and reflect on the messages dropped by Mars.tarrab over the course of the hour. As disturbing as it was inspiring, it still edges in to my thoughts a week later – ROLLER certainly left its mark.

This production has now closed, for future work visit: http://www.marstarrab.co.uk

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