Bottom

Bottom

This one man show performed and conceived by Willy Hudson is a humorous and insightful look into the gay community and how its internalized homophobia is as restricting as any other form of homophobia.
Beginning with Hudson rushing onstage clad only in a pink towel and asking an audience member to pass him his dinosaur print underwear once he is decent the show proper can begin.
What follows is an exploration as to how as he has defined himself as a ‘bottom’ in the bedroom whether this transfers to him being a bottom in the rest of his life also-ie is he always going to be the one who gets screwed.
Certainly there is a vulnerability about Hudson’s character which suggests this might be so and when he finds himself on a third date which takes a strange turn when he discovers that his paramour is also a bottom he ponders whether such restrictions are binding and how often do they get in the way of any real relationship development.
The show is fast paced with slower moments of introspection and there is a lot of referencing Beyonce including an over-extended dance work out to her Love on Top which frankly I felt overstayed its welcome somewhat.
Despite this the show is an amiable expose of the restrictions the gay community imposes on itself and how once labeled as one thing it is hard to be taken seriously as another. Hudson does a good job of drawing attention to just how ridiculous this is and showing there is no point of coming out if you are prepared to jump straight back into another box.
Definitely a show worth seeing and Hudson is a confident stage presence who uses his vulnerability to great effect.
****
Bottom is at Summerhall until August 26th(not 13th and 20th) at 4.25pm

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MY LAND

My Land

Returning after last year’s triumphant Paris de Nuit show-without a doubt the hottest, sexiest show on The Fringe- Hungary’s Recirquel present their 2018 production My Land which is just as stunningly intoxicating, mesmerizing, breathtaking and erotically charged as their previous offering,
This year however the pace is much more languorous and the set stripped down to a bare floor strewn with a sand-like substance and a wobbly mirror backdrop but the simplicity of the set belies the complex nature of the show wherein beautifully taut glistening bodies twist, turn and contort themselves into shapes and positions that will quite literally take your breath away and leave you gasping for air.
The six male and one female performers – Rodion Drahun, Roman Khasifov, Sergii Materinskyi, Yevenhiia Obolonina, Andrii Spatar, Mykola Pysiura and Andrii Pysiura- turn in an ensemble performance that alongside amazing skill, dexterity and imagination must also include an inordinate amount of trust and awareness as everything is perfectly synced to within a split second and the reliance on each other is inestimable.
Highlights include balancing on delicate body parts, twisted torsos and limbs, a sequence involving a free-standing ladder and even an imaginative juggling sequence which beats any street performance you are ever likely to see.
The soundtrack featuring traditional music from Tatar, Moldavia and other parts of the Ukraine adds a surreal, sublime flavour to the outstanding feats on display whilst director and choreographer Bence Vagi has more than excelled himself yet again.
Not a solitary second of this show is wasted and you will find yourself captivated and even unable to draw breath at certain moments. It is a stunningly visceral piece of theater which will stay with you for hours-if not days- after.
Totally mesmerizing!
*****
My Land is on at Assembly Roxy at 8.10pm until August 26th.

FREE & PROUD

Free & Proud

Written by Charles Gershman and directed by Peter Darney Free & Proud explores the ins and outs and ups and downs of a relationship between two gay men who come from totally different backgrounds with different values and the problems this engenders.
Essentially a two-handed production between the two characters Hakeem( Fasiz Mbelizi and Jeremy ( Michael Gilbert) the show pulls no punches from the outset when Hakeem’s death in a bus crash is passed onto Jeremy who sadly finds he doesn’t know how he feels about this nor even what emotions he should summon up.
From here the drama utilises flashback mode as we see the beginning of the couple’s relationship and get a sense of its organic but awkward growth culminating in the pair getting married. However the audience already sense the marriage is rushed and the relationship founded on different principles and expectations from both parties involved: Hakeem who has had to work for everything in his life is serious and committed whilst Jeremy is more privileged and is more frivolous and lax in his attitudes.
Almost from the early days of their marriage problems are exposed and although an open relationship is agreed upon to heal inflicted wounds it merely serves to open them further resulting in a split which is more final than either one realises at the time.
A very intense production with a few light moments along the way Free& Proud is a well observed and thought out insight into gay relationships- a couple of gay themed shows I have seen this year focus on the problems monogamy within gay relationships causes- that is wholly credible. The performances are excellent and so much so that when the actors spoke in their own accents after the show’s denouement I was quite shocked as they had been so thoroughly authentic and convincing. Definitely a show worth checking out.
****
Free & Proud is on at Assembly George Square until August 27th at 2.55pm

LOVE SONG TO LAVENDER MENACE

Love Song to Lavender Menace

It is hard to envision in these times of gay marriage, civil partnerships, Pride marches in so many major cities and a whole new level of understanding that at some point in our recent history a bookshop which sold gay themed literature could cause such a stir in its local community especially considering that community was Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh.
But we need look back no further than 1982 when Bob Orr and Sigrid Nielsen rose to the challenge of taking their makeshift bookstall in the cloakroom of the legendary gay club Fire Island to new premises in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town and in the process naming it Lavender Menace.
Written by James Ley and directed by Ros Phillips the witty and well observed script centres around two main protagonists Lewis (Pierce Reed) and Glen (Matthew McVarrish) as they prepare to celebrate the shop’s 5th birthday and pay homage to Sigrid and Bob. It is a celebration tinged with conflicting emotions however as the shop is closing and moving onto new premises under the name West and Wilde.
Alongside this change Lewis and Glen have some unresolved issues between each other that have been lurking beneath the surface since their very first encounter –which incidentally is acted out brilliantly with skill, wit and verve.
Juxtaposed alongside the main storyline are several others including a closeted married man who can’t quite cross the threshold of the shop to explore his desires he believes lies in the literature held within until it is too late; the shop has closed and its owners and stock have moved on.
Several flashback scenes capture the energy, excitement and new freedoms of being gay that started to emerge in the eighties. The soundtrack includes many anthems and favourites of the era and they work brilliantly in the context of the stories as they unravel.
Definitely a Fringe highlight for me this year Love Song to lavender Menace captures not only an era but for me personally brings back so many evocative memories of the times, the bookshop itself and even some of the characters mentioned in the play. You do not have to have a personal interest in the story however as the emotions- happy, sad, proud and defiant- it captures are universal and the story is likely to touch anyone who sees it due to its great performances, fast-paced drama, tight direction and cleverly written dialogue.
A must see!
*****
Love Song to Lavender Menace is on at Summerhall at 12.55pm daily (except Mondays) until August 27th

Marmite

Marmite

This fast-paced , funny and highly entertaining show written by Hallam Breen and Phoebe Simmonds takes a look at the difficulty in gay relationships especially when the ‘exclusive’ question rears its head.
It is an intoxicating rush which begins when the two central protagonists Eddie and Dylan meet in a Wetherspoons while both on dates with other people. The relationship powers ahead at lightening speed and pretty soon they are living together and totally coupled up.
This is where things take a turn as Eddie’s sister Rosie arrives at their flat and after interrupting an intimate moment she proceeds to get uproariously drunk with the two lovers and then asks them in a moment of candour whether their relationship is exclusive. There is an awkward silence when Dylan suggests that maybe they are not and perhaps he would like to embark on sexual experiences out-with the relationship or at least with others within it.
Eddie however is not as keen but decides to go along with it anyway.
As is the norm in these situations when two people are coming at things from a different angle with one compromising things move along smoothly until they don’t and when they don’t they very definitely don’t.
It is at this juncture that Dylan reveals that he feels he has been coerced into the relationship and things start to unravel until they reach a very dramatic head.
Despite the seriousness of the subject matter which looks at monogamy in gay relationships this production deals with it in a highly humorous manner. Eddie’s sister Rosie is in particular adept at making light of serious subject matter and is an equal star in the tale of the two young lovers. Definitely a show worth catching; I thoroughly enjoyed it.
****

The Marilyn Conspiracy

The Marilyn Conspiracy

There was something especially poignant about seeing this production on the 56th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s tragic and still mystifying death. Set in the hours immediately following the blonde beauty’s demise the scene is set around those closest to her at the time of her death: Her analyst Dr. Ralph Greenson and his wife, her friend Pat Newcombe, actor Peter Lawford and his wife Patricia ( interestingly also a sister to Bobby and Jack Kennedy), Marilyn’s housekeeper Eunice Murray and the doctor who pronounced her dead.
What emerges over this show’s duration is that there is no simple truth as to what actually happened on that fateful night in August 1962. Peter Lawford comes across as particularly vile and self-serving and his closeness and subsequent allegiance to the two Kennedy brothers suggest some sort of cover up. First up the body had been moved and cleaned up before anyone else had been informed of the death, not to mention the changing and washing of the bed-sheets which may have held some clues as to what actually may have caused the star’s death.
One thing everyone in the room can agree on is that suicide is possibly the least likely option although it emerges as the most convenient one for certain parties who may or may not have been involved.
The tragic thing about the whole debacle is that only Pat Newcombe as Marilyn’s friend has any interest in discovering what actually really happened. This however is the last thing on Lawford’s mind and due to some confusion over the times he claims he received the news that something was wrong and when he actually did suggests he has a far clearer idea of what really went on that fateful night; his primary concern seemed to be coaching everyone into telling the same chain of events in essence concocting a story ‘make it all go away’.
As the drama unravels it becomes clearer and clearer that the official story concerning Marilyn’s death is very likely not the true one although most people have known that since day one.
This particular production was absorbing, clever and held together by a great cast- I had no programme so unfortunately no cast list available- and Guy Masterson who wrote and directed also stepped admirably into the role of the doctor due to a fellow cast member being indisposed. A great production and definitely worth seeing!
*****
The Marilyn Conspiracy is on at assembly George Square until August 27th (n0t 13th) at 1.45pm

Sirens

Sirens

This show is refreshing in its ambitions to create inclusive theatre, tackling the hushed reverence most drama productions in the Fringe demand therefore you are free to stand up, leave or even talk during the performance and none of the aforementioned bother the actors nor will they be put off. To make things even more interesting it also comes with subtitles projected on a screen behind and much of the drama also includes sign language. So full marks to Zoo Co for making these efforts to ensure that those not normally catered to during the Fringe are considered and shown some respect!
The drama revolves around three sirens from Greek mythology are hurled into 2018 Hastings. Still believing that any man who comes into direct contact with them will die- a belief that gains credence when the first man they encounter dies when the cliff he is on collapses although this has nothing whatsoever to do with them-they soon discover that this is not the case and the curse is in fact non-existent.
What they do discover however is that some male attitudes towards women are still somewhat suspect and sexual equality although having advanced is still not wholly equal.
The production is fast, energetic, fresh and totally enthusiastic. The cast hang together very well and it is an enjoyable show.
***
Sirens is at Pleasance Courtyard at 3.35pm until 27th August (not 13th or 20th)

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