A Sticky Season
Crystal Bollix presents The Bitch Ball
Drayton Arms Theatre
Reviewed – 19th March 2019
“A less convincing second half dampens the impact of Donald’s piece, but remains fun nonetheless”
This enjoyable – if not a little odd – triple bill of shows at the Drayton Arms groups together three intriguing and original shows connected by the omnipresent spectre of the past, and how it shapes our understanding of our own personal present.
Jack Donald’s startling and poetic ‘A Sticky Season’ starts off the evening on a high that the other shows never quite reach. A lyrical, ‘Beat’-inspired monologue delivered by Donald himself, the story follows the musings of our narrator wandering through a forest in the summer of 2018. His journey takes him to Eighties-era San Francisco, where he watches Gaetan Dugas turn from club loving boy to the media’s AIDS scapegoat, and ends in Sixties-era Islington, where he witnesses the turbulent relationship (and ultimate murder/suicide) of Joe Orton and jealous lover Kenneth Halliwell.
The motif of fruit oozes through this production, infiltrating the stage design, lighting, and action. If ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ and ‘Call My By Your Name’ had a child, it would probably look a like this. Marcus McManus and Rosie-Lea Sparkle offer necessary support for Donald, using movement and bodies to become at once other characters and Donald’s internal mindscape. Pollyanna Newcombe as director keeps these moments of movement solid and precise. If ‘A Sticky Season’ could be improved, it would be Donald allowing himself to relax with his audience and enjoy the comedic moments more. Riveting stuff that deserves a run in its own right.
A less convincing second half dampens the impact of Donald’s piece, but remains fun nonetheless. ‘Minor Disruptions’ introduces us to Katie Paterson’s take on childhood. Relying heavily on audience participation, Paterson’s one-person show is funny at times, performed with confidence, and showing skills in improvisation that match those of a stand-up comic. However, a drab finish and too much time spent (literally) in the dark makes the show feel unfinished. Some interesting moments, such as having audience members slopping sun cream and water all over the place, are overshadowed by the more tedious sections that neither reveal anything new nor drive along some semblance of a story.
The final show is ‘Crystal Bollix Presents The Bitch Ball’, a study of bitch-ness with Alexandra Christie’s alter-ego Crystal Bollix. Accompanied by deadpan and underused pianist Lena Stahl, Bollix takes us through a brief history of the word ‘bitch’ and their own relationship to it. The show relies, as advertised, heavily on lip-syncing and audience interaction, but both need to be turned up to 11 to make the whole thing more enjoyable. There needs to be more happening here to make watching someone lip-sync entertaining past the opening few minutes.
Queer Trilogy is a mixed bag of an evening, but worth it for ‘A Sticky Season’. Anyone who likes the idea of sharing a hamster story, or having their face plunged into whipped cream, will enjoy the second half too.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by Lexi Clare
Drayton Arms Theatre until 23rd March
Previously reviewed at this venue: