(Photo credit: Ali Wright) 22.01.22
Fair Play focuses on the growing friendship of two teen athletes, whose shared determination to make it to the athletics world championships unites them, against the odds. The play centres the around the theme of what constitutes a ‘head start’ in athletics, where privilege and opportunity seem insignificant, but body types come under intense scrutiny.
The staging for the show was minimalist, with just a single red carpet floor, performed in the round, with a few metal structures forming climbing frames on opposite corners of the stage. These metal structures facilitated the girl’s training sessions, as well as acting as hang out spots in their free time. Lighting was used frequently throughout to help bring to life their races, with a digital clock displayed on the ground, and flashing lights as they ran. This was a really effective use of a small space, but I would’ve liked to have seen the set go further, maybe with scene changes to reflect their evolving relationship.
Overall, the thematic content of the play lead to an interesting and current debate on women’s sports, as well as womanhood more broadly. It revels in the joys of friendships, while highlighting dark sides to competitive sports. However, the fact the script centres so much around their training sessions, and solely on two characters, limited its options for dramatisation and often left us wanting more to watch.
The performances by NicK King and Charlotte Beaumont were thorough, with excellent physicalisation of the racing, and believable ability to convey emotions as well as their ever-changing relationship. One thing that bothered me in the direction was their almost never-ending out of breath speech, which I felt somewhat laboured the point and could have been used more sparingly. Nonetheless a well thought out and dedicated performance.
If you have a passion for current affairs and athletics, this is a great minimalist watch.
(Photo: Alex Brenner) 08.12.2021
Think the full monty meets the technological age, and you have new British musical comedy The Rhythmics. Grey, a middle-aged single dad of Silva who mourns his failed career as a rock star, is encouraged to audition for Nick & The Rhythmics, only to realise he has unwittingly signed up for an all-male Rhythmic Gymnastics group. In a bid to prove to his daughter that he can commit to something, he begrudgingly joins the group which gives him a new sense of direction.
The Rhythmics is a hilarious, heartwarming and refreshingly modern tale about companionship, perseverance and regret. It isn’t all men in leotards and twirling ribbons – although the choreography and musical numbers are brilliant – the real heart of the piece stems from the relationships these burly men form with one another in the process. This laugh out loud comedy provides the perfect tonic for the chaos that we are experiencing right now. One of the most beautiful aspects of the piece was that it was part performed in sign language, with all of the dialogue presented in text on a screen upstage, so that it was accessible for deaf viewers.
It is a harsh irony that due to Covid-19 the rest of the show’s run at The Southwark Playhouse has been cancelled, but hopefully in the new year it will be possible to catch this piece again!
Photo credit: The Gay Times
My second show since return of the theatre, Death Drop, was a contrast in style and talent, to the first.
Death Drop is best described as a fun Dragatha Christie, starring Drag Race royalty: Latrice Royale and Willam. The show depicts a group of fictional z list celebrities, played by drag queens and kings, attending a ten year anniversary dinner for Charles and Diana (whom they assume will be attending), hosted by a woman they’ve mysteriously never heard of. However, not long into their evening the death of the first attendee raises suspicions about their invite to the house. As the plot probably suggests, the show is stupid at its core. It pokes fun at the inadequacies of theatre in all the ways we know how, from farcical multi-role play to comedic uses of special effects. If drag is your bag, and you don’t mind a lot of cheesy humour and average acting, then this is the show for you.
It goes without saying that unless you are a fan of Drag Race or drag more broadly, this show probably isn’t worth your time. However, I was pleasantly surprised that both Latrice Royale and Willam proved themselves as more than just names to pull in the crowds. Willam’s vocals were impressive; she felt fitting to the West-End stage, while Latrice had a good stage presence. These were not the only drag royals of the show, Myra Dubois, who played the show’s host, was a semi-finalist in Britain’s Got Talent 2020, while LoUis CYfer who played ‘Rich Whiteman’ was the first drag king to win Drag Idol UK. The cast were definitely the highlight of the show, as a group of drag performers at the top of their game.
Unsurprisingly, there wasn’t much I loved about the show outside of the drag. Contrary to The Gay Times suggestion that the writing was ‘exactly the tonic we needed’, I think the cast were let down by an overly simplistic script, which at times felt like it had just given up on finding ways to captivate the audience, or even be comedic. The best aspects of the script came in the form of lampooning patriarchy, which was held together brilliantly by the physical comedy of the drag kings. Elements of multi-role play were also used well, such as the triplets performed by the same actor, under the pretence that the ‘real’ actors had food poisoning. However, in places it all felt a bit GCSE drama, with tongue twisters like ‘Peter piper picked a pepper’ forming about five minutes of the second act, and jokes around delayed sound queues that became boring. Even the deaths became unimaginative, as at some point they switched from mystery black outs to an out of place ninja in lycra. In short, the comedy often lacked wit. I wasn’t expecting top quality theatre, I was just disappointed that I wasn’t proven wrong. I had hoped at the very least the set design would help explain the far from cheap ticket prices. In true murder mystery fashion, there was just one set throughout. Yet, it was predictable in style and appeared inexpensive compared with other West-End shows.
This is not to suggest that I didn’t find the show enjoyable, I did, however, I think it would’ve been best kept as a drag show, rather than theatre.
Photograph: Cannes Film Festival
Set in France in the late 18th Century ‘Portrait On A Lady on Fire’, is a progressive period drama about a solo female artist named Marrianne, who is commissioned to complete a wedding portrait of Héloïse, against her knowledge. In this wonderfully feminist piece the four main parts are women, with the addition of Héloïse’s mother the countess and her maid Sophie. The film is ultimately a discussion of the female gaze, a woman being painted by a woman, who also gazes upon the painter, both constantly under scrutiny. The male absence in the film is glaring and yet the female oppression is loud; it is in Marianne’s need to paint in her father’s name as well as Héloïse’s arranged marriage. Throughout the film Héloïse, Marrianne and Sophie the maid, form a kind of sisterhood like that seen Mustang, coming together through difficulty.
It is a heartbreaking and beautiful LGBTQ film. 9/10.
Viewed on MUBI.
Attending Degenerate Fox’s International women’s day piece at the Rosebranch Theatre, a member of the cast on the ticket booth chewing gum and shouting us in, set the tone for this less than usual production. Thirty, two minute pieces, the order of which is decided by the audience who are reading the plays off a ‘menu’. The pieces begin with the cast shouting ‘go’ and close with ‘curtain’. Asking the sound man if he is ready, shouting that they need certain props between pieces, there is no fourth wall in this chaotic piece. In this international women’s day special they focussed on a range of mini pieces, performed by it’s LGBTQ international cast. My favourite pieces were ones which focussed on trans issues such as the piece: ‘What we think of TERF’s’ where a TERF is represented by a glass of water which they treat as if it is infected before one of the cast member reluctantly edged towards the glass and chucked it through the door. Similarly, when discussing how it feels to be labelled something you are not, their cast member Jack held up a sign saying ‘woman’ and awkwardly tried to put it down a few times before reluctantly holding it and faking a smile. The piece was insightful and informative and the wide scope of the content reflected the diverse cast, covering broad topics such as sexual assault in Latin America, to listing inspirational women we might not have heard of. I’d love to see how their usual show compares to the factual nature of this piece. Admittedly, if you’re looking for high quality theatre, this isn’t it – the talent of the cast varies from what appears obviously trained actors to seemingly happy volunteers- but what it does provide is a fun show brimming with inclusivity. The cast could work on their conviction on delivery if they did wish to elevate this to a serious piece of theatre, however, I imagine as this was a special it may have been put together very quickly. I can see this company at festivals or as a fun, more boozy night out. If you are member of the LGBTQ community this company are ones to watch!