GAY WITCH SEX CULT at the VAULT Festival
“Plot, comedy, character – Doherty has successfully achieved them all”
Gay Witch Sex Cult, the latest work by queer comedy writer and performer Andrew Doherty, does not begin how you might expect. Opening at the gender reveal party for the child of Kaelan Trough (Doherty) and his partner Jeremy, it is difficult at this moment to imagine how any of the title’s four words will be covered adequately. However, when Kaelan unwittingly reveals a file on his computer entitled ‘Gay Witch Sex Cult’, he is forced to explain his recent experience with sinister forces.
Kaelan describes his journey to an island between England and France where the cult has settled. En route, he learns that young women have been travelling to the island for decades though none ever return, and he soon uncovers large maternity wards within the island’s three abandoned hospitals. A confusing prophecy fuels further investigation and the terrifying truth begins to unravel.
Doherty makes excellent use of PowerPoint slides to accompany his bizarre tale. From informative slides on the island’s buildings to Shrek screenshots, it is always a joy to see what comes next. There is also some great use of video and animation as the plot thickens.
Apart from the presentation, there is little in the way of set dressing. When the audience enters, there is a large box stage left that is intended for gender reveal balloons as well as two chairs facing one another. On a small table stage right rests Doherty’s laptop and a few other props such as his novel – Call Me By Your Name from the perspective of the peach – and a suspicious set of keys.
Doherty does an excellent job of moving between the absolutely absurd to darker and more touching moments. The silly tone is established immediately with a PowerPoint slide that says ‘Applaud as you see fit’ but our star does not shy away from the macabre nor the dramatic. The energy is always high, and no beat is missed – jokes are so frequent that it is impossible to lose focus. This is a comedy masterclass.
The sound design is incredibly atmospheric – the scraping of the demon’s sickle against rock the most notable. Doherty doesn’t shy away from accents either – his impression of and back-and-forth with the mysterious ferrymen who takes him to the island highly enjoyable.
Audience participation is minimal beyond the initial five minutes, but Doherty does a great job of making all feel involved throughout. His style of presenting is as if talking to an old friend – he is familiar and warm but remains in control even when the audience gets raucous with laughter.
Gay Witch Sex Cult is a fantastic show which embraces its ridiculousness with open arms whilst also telling a completely coherent and captivating story. Plot, comedy, character – Doherty has successfully achieved them all. He is certainly one to watch.
Reviewed on 3rd February 2023
by Flora Doble
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