THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Although a personal favourite piece of literature I have often found that various re-imaginings of, perhaps, Wilde’s greatest work have often felt lacking. Whether it be dance, theatre, film or even musical very few have come close to capturing the essence of what makes the tale so special. This interpretation by Box Tale Soup however manages to position itself alongside some of the more interesting interpretations of the cautionary tale of morality, vanity and excessive indulgence that Wilde levelled at the Victorian society of his time but which is equally-if not even more so- relevant today.
As in Wilde’s novel the young Dorian’s beauty is so extreme that everyone who meets him is instantly beguiled and charmed by him and his appeal is universal. By having the only female member of the three strong cast take on the central male role it creates a gender fluid androgyne, inverting the idea of his masculinity, which was always implicitly hinted at in Wilde’s novel. Likewise using specially crafted puppets as the peripheral characters who fall under his spell is an interesting and clever analogy as eventually everyone surrounding Dorian eventually became a mere puppet as he indulged his desires and protected his legacy at any cost.
The original score accompanying the drama was well placed and also added a certain intrigue which sets this production above so many other interpretations.
All in all I found this version of an overworked classic quite refreshing as it allowed a more modern take on the appeal of Dorian who although in Wilde’s work is most definitely male but uses wiles and means of seduction more commonly associated with female characters of the time to manipulate and ultimately attain whatever his heart desires.
****
The Picture of Dorian Gray is on at Underbelly Big Belly at 11.10am until August 27th.

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CIRCA: HUMANS

Circa:Humans

Now this is what you call a show!
Gripping from its slow erotic beginnings, as sinuous bodies twist and meld into almost inhuman forms to the beautiful strains of a soothing violin which becomes more intense then frantic as the bodies become even more mellifluous, right through until its exhausting conclusion when all ten bodies roll around in choreographed unison.
Focusing on how much the human body can take and how far it can push itself the ten acrobats onstage push themselves to extremes creating human towers, throwing themselves across the stage, contorting and twisting into fantastical shapes, gliding and hanging from ropes and relying on each other and their own primal instincts continually whilst making it all look so effortless.
To say that I was spellbound by this performance would be an understatement. There was not one moment where I felt I could take my eyes away from the many things that were happening on the stage; often simultaneously. Obviously in peak condition the ten performers seemed to not even break sweat as they shifted gracefully from one routine to another until the whole show seemed seamless.The dynamism and obvious silent rapport the performers have with each other never fails to impress and the trust between them is obvious to any spectator.
Certainly a Fringe Highlight Circa have become a regular fixture and every year not only do they deliver but every year they seem to take things a step further. Definitely a show I would recommend to anyone and probably the best thing I have seen yet this year. And this has been a good year!
*****
Circa: Humans is on at Underbelly Circus Hub on The Meadows until August 28th at 8pm

CELEBRATION

Celebration

I must admit to being slightly bemused by this show written and created by Ben Kulvichit and Clara Potter-Sweet. It seemed to be trying to be several things but lacked any real sense of focus or cohesion so was therefore directionless.
Opening with a dance routine which was clunky to say the least they ran the gamut of existentialist chat, semi-nudity, concertina playing, too many awkward costume changes, musical interludes, a series of humorous sketches, a guest orator and all the way back to another not entirely gracefully choreographed dance routine.
It was a mixed bag to say the least but in their favour what they lacked in technique they made up for in youthful exuberance. At times though it felt unfortunately half formed as if they had had a great idea but never quite followed it through; not quite taking the bull by the proverbial horns as it were.
Obviously they have something to articulate it is just that they haven’t quite grasped the medium or means in which to do it yet.
On the plus side it was in no way offensive or even difficult to watch. For a first performance of a debut show it might not have fulfilled the ambitions it was reaching for but at least there is some basic groundwork which can be worked up and improved upon.
**
Celebration is playing at Zoo Monkey House at 5.45pm until August 28th.

GYPSY QUEEN

Gypsy Queen

This impressive two hander written by Rob Ward- who also performs- and directed by Adam Zane from the About Hope Theatre Company addresses the issue of homophobia in the world of sport and, in this particular case, boxing and pulls no punches either in its delivery or message. Written in some reaction to Tyson Fury’s homophobic remarks of 2015 it looks at the burgeoning relationship of two boxers and how it impacts on their family life and career.
Although there are only two actors ever onstage they inhabit various roles via quick and simple costume changes but relying on nuance and performance skills more. Alongside Ward- main character ‘Gorgeous’ George, is an equally impressive Ryan Clayton whose main character Dane ‘The Pain’ Clayton is the son of local gym owner and whose homosexuality is an open secret that is never really discussed; tolerant homophobia so to speak. George is uncertain of his sexuality but coming into contact with Dane and impressed with his attitude of nonchalance and self confidence finds himself drawn to him in a way that he has previously been unable to address within himself.
Along the way the two actors dip in and out of various characters including camp lovers, demanding parents, cousins and, in one particularly humorous turn from Clayton, George’s mother.
The show is nicely paced allowing you to absorb the various dramas and emotions unfolding and the script is nuanced to contain dry biting humour, tender emotions, anger, frustration and empathy. The two actors manage to convince whichever role they are in at any particular time but it is as Dane and George that they really capture the imagination.
An interesting take on the LGBTQ issues in sport and with so few sportspeople actually ‘out’ it is maybe time we considered why and how it could be easier for them. As this play proves in its outcome, being silently tolerant is not always enough!
****
Gypsy Queen is on at The Assembly Rooms at 1pm until 28th August

Fag/ Stag

Fag/ Stag

Sometimes the simplest execution with an inventive, witty and thought provoking script is all that is needed to make a Fringe show a success. In the case of Fag/ Stag two guys, Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs, sit on two stools discussing the pros and cons of their slightly askew bromance and the result is a sharp, provocative insight into the different male worlds of straight and gay types and where the differences and similarities lie and in what way this affects such relationships.
Both Jimmy (Fowler) and Corgan (Isaacs) hve at some point dated a girl Tamara and although Jimmy is now gay and in a relationship with Tim he is closer to Corgan who is still heartbroken over the ending of his relationship with Tamara. Tamara herself is now about to be married and the premise of this production is the month long lead up to her nuptials and resides in a habitat of Grindr, Tinder, drunken nights out, ambiguous sexuality and computer games.
The show is shot through with dry, sarky humour, wanton putdowns and misguided differing perspectives on the very same situations but is also enlightening as it shows how the gay and straight worlds can collide and collude but raises the question that the differing sexualities raises a whole set of other issues. Although there is never any explicit sexual tension between Jimmy and Corgan there is an implicit sense that there relationship is built on affection and an understanding that is someway beyond sexuality. This is an area that is rarely discussed or even addressed in such matters.
The script is fast paced and captures both the isolation and pressure that both types are expected to conform to and where this leads them in the wrong decisions they often make. It impressively takes its time to unfold never feeling forced or rushed, allowing the audience to absorb what is being said.
Definitely an impressive show with lots to recommend it, Fag/ Stag takes the simplest of premises and runs with them.
****
Fag/ Stag is on at Underbelly Belly Button until August 28th at 4pm.

THE REVLON GIRL

The Revlon Girl

Set not long after the Aberfan disaster of 1966 when 116 school children, along with 28 adults, lost their lives when colliery waste collapsed from an overlooking hill devastating a local school and community in one fell swoop. The fall out was heartbreaking for those who lost loved ones and with responsibility lying with those who granted approval for placing the pits in such an obviously unsuitable place there was also the matter of blame and subsequent compensation.
Based on true events this play by Neil Anthony Docking finds us eight months on from this tragedy and a town still swamped in grief and anger. A group of local women making up a support group have uncharacteristically enlisted the services of a Revlon representative to come and show them how to apply make up in the hopes of gaining some self-respect; encouraging them to feel positive about themselves by attempting to make themselves feel beautiful again.
It is a feisty production and the five actors on stage all lend the piece the necessary drama, conviction and pathos it deserves. Standout performances come particularly from Bethan Thomas as the feisty, swears like a trooper Rhona, Charlotte Gray as the eager to please Sian and the Revlon Girl, Charlotte, Antonia Kinlay who herself has hidden depths and an empathy not at first imagined.
It is however the ensemble itself which gives the performance its real innate strength and in a Fringe where one man shows and two-handers are all the rage it is a pleasure to see actors actually engage with each other and interact in a way which captures the different nuances of various individuals.
If the play does have a fault it is that the direction by Maxine Evans is a little flat and due to the lack of any stage effects or backdrops perhaps a little more imagination could have been applied to the use of space. This is a small complaint however and the performances are really what matters here. Capturing the range of emotions and how differently people adapt to them following a tragedy such as this, reveals a powerful, moving work where some people want to leave the scene of their heartache while others simply can’t.
It is also especially poignant in the wake of the Grenfell Towers disaster of a few months back when a community decimated by corporate greed pay the highest price for negligence on the part of those out to make a quick buck at the cost of human lives proving that over fifty years on not much has really changed.
****
The Revlon Girl is on at Assembly Roxy until August 28th at 1pm.

5 GUYS CHILLIN’

5 Guys Chillin’

Certainly not one for the faint hearted, 5 Guys Chillin’ makes its intentions clear almost from the outset. Throwing a non-judgmental eye over the Chemsex chill out parties that lead to group sex sessions this no holds barred production by Kings Head Theatre and Em Lou Productions is not afraid to dress its nudity, drug taking, sex chat and promiscuity up in skimpy clothing.
The scene revolves around a late night party –possibly after a club- with the five invitees having found their way there via dating apps. The intentions are implicit but they are also extremely explicit. The idea is simply to take as many drugs – crystal meth, here frequently referred to by its street slang name ‘Tina’, MDMA, Speed and of course the ubiquitous cocaine- and let things evolve, or degenerate, into a sexual scene. Of course as is expounded throughout the show that by taking as many drugs as they do it kind of dulls the sexual experience; that is if they are able to function at all.
It is a stark and honest look at a scene which remains a mystery to many and whilst it never addresses exactly what motivates those who participate into participating it does give a clear indication that those involved are unhappy, frustrated, lonely and rather desperate. Despite this they still claim that they enjoy what they are doing and the alternative-settling down in a monogamous relationship- is unlikely to make them any happier or less lonely so perhaps it is more complex than it appears on the surface.
Certainly this play offers no judgment nor does it take a moral stance either way. Based on verbatim conversations from gay men who participate in these soirees there is a gritty realism throughout. At times it is hard not to empathise with characters such as the Punjabi man whose background and culture simply forbids homosexual behaviour but somehow he has found resolve with his wife who knows of- and to some extent tolerates- his leanings but even this is not enough for him so he attends these late night parties and allows himself to engage with multiple partners.
As said at the beginning this is not one for the faint hearted. A couple of people left in its early stages; perhaps they thought the ‘chillin’ of the title referred to sitting around with a cup of tea politely chatting. It is definitely a full on show with lots of strong language, nudity and sexual references that are maybe not for the uninitiated. It is however a fascinating, entertaining insight into a demimonde which is obviously now a part of our society and culture. Be warned also that the theatre is so hot that you may be tempted to disrobe yourself!
****
5 Guys Chillin’ is on at Assembly Roxy until August 27th at 9.50pm