Tag Archives: Abi Davies

I, Incel

★★★

Camden People’s Theatre

I Incel

I, Incel

Camden People’s Theatre

Reviewed – 1st November 2019

★★★

 

“This is a night intended to inform, using clever playful techniques at times, about an unsettling subculture”

 

The audience file into the small Camden People’s Theatre a little nervously. A man stands at a lectern, smiling and smartly dressed, as classical music plays. Nothing could feel further from the dark world of the ‘involuntary celibate’ culture that has seen murderous consequences.

For those of us not quite sure what to expect of I, Incel, written and performed by Christopher Montague, the initial effect proves surprisingly accurate. The performance unfolds as a presentation, with slides and props to boot. It’s not quite as simple as it seems, though, with dark undertones referenced as the hour passes as Montague begins to step away from his lectern and seemingly his balanced, removed persona.

As all-too-long YouTube videos made by now notorious young men identifying as incels play behind him, our speaker seems to transform. He vapes as he gazes at a long leather jacket that hangs imposingly to one side of the stage. The lighting (cleverly deployed throughout by Lucy Adams) dips and Montague briefly becomes a silhouette… before returning briskly to his speaker’s podium and persona as the video ends.

I, Incel is presented as a work in development, and at times this shows. This notion of Montague slipping into, being drawn towards, the darkness of incel culture doesn’t quite hold, which is a shame as it suggests a greater darkness that would really help throw the shadows of the piece into relief. Montague himself, while a likeable performer, is perhaps part of the reason for the production feeling a little one-note; some lines are delivered with timing just a fraction off, robbing them of the dark humour or shock value they could have offered. And when he crosses the stage to interact moodily with the hanging jacket, it’s hard to feel too moved by his brooding; his demeanour otherwise just feels too, well, nice, despite his references to seeing how close he could have come to incel mindsets in his youth.

The after-show feedback form asks how much audience members knew about incels before coming to the show, and whether the content went too far or not far enough. This suggests an apt preoccupation with some areas that will benefit from more development. It’s a conundrum; so many of those electing to come to a show on this topic will, of course, probably have a decent level of understanding already, and with that in mind the material felt rather basic. But then of course Montague and his consultant producer, Hannah Elsy, will want to ensure that this can act as a primer for those new to this especially torrid corner of toxic masculinity. It’s a balance that still needs tweaking, and a tricky one at that.

Still, criticism of a performer for being too warm and content for being too accessible hardly feels fair. This is a night intended to inform, using clever playful techniques at times, about an unsettling subculture that has manifested in tragedy before and will, one fears, do so again. Any production designed to bring this into the sunlight is to be commended, especially one as thoughtful as I, Incel.

 

Reviewed by Abi Davies

Photography by Georgie Lanfranchi

 


I, Incel

Camden People’s Theatre until 2nd November

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
George | ★★★★ | March 2019
Mojave | ★★★ | April 2019
Human Jam | ★★★★ | May 2019
Hot Flushes – The Musical | ★★★ | June 2019
Form | ★★★★★ | August 2019
Muse | ★★ | August 2019
Ophelia Rewound | ★★★★ | August 2019
The Indecent Musings Of Miss Doncaster 2007 | ★★★½ | August 2019
A Haunted Existence | ★★★★ | October 2019
Trigger Warning | ★★★ | October 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Paul Simon’s Graceland Live

★★★★

Shepherd’s Bush Empire & UK Tour

Paul Simons Graceland Live

Paul Simon’s Graceland Live

Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Reviewed – 14th October 2019

★★★★

 

“Turner does a great job with some Simon classics and some lesser-known favourites”

 

For many adults and indeed children of the 1980s, Paul Simon’s Graceland album remains iconic. Hits such as ‘You Can Call Me Al’ and the album’s namesake track remain staples on party playlists over 30 years after its release. And for many born long after 1986, the chance to hear the album live would have been unthinkable – especially since Simon’s step away from touring in 2018. Until now.

Maple Tree Entertainment have already found success with The Simon and Garfunkel Story, which now tours worldwide to rapturous audiences, and so it’s perhaps unsurprising that they have continued to mine the clear vein of enthusiasm for all things Paul Simon. Hence this new production, which calls upon the remarkable talents of the UK-based South African Cultural Choir to add the essential vocals so beloved of fans of Graceland – including the remarkable lilting refrains of ‘Homeless’, originally provided so memorably by Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Fans expecting a repeat of The Simon and Garfunkel story, which deploys singers with at least a passing resemblance to the pair and casts them as actors as well as musicians, might be surprised. This is not quite the same show, and this at first takes some adjustment. Young American YouTuber Josh Turner takes Simon’s part here, and for all that he’s clearly a remarkable guitarist, handling the fast fingerwork of ‘Anji’ with apparent ease, he is no voice-alike of Simon and nor does he pretend to be. This quickly becomes irrelevant, but it’s best to approach the performance as a tribute rather than a likeness.

The shape of the production becomes even clearer when the night opens with ‘Kodachrome’ – an absolute banger of a Simon track, certainly, but not from the Graceland album. Turner explains the format: we’ll hear some Simon tracks in the first half, and meet the choir who’ll remind us just why Simon fell in love with South African township music and went on to make Graceland. In the second half, we’ll hear the Graceland album in full. The audience rustles in anticipation; this is what people have come for.

It’s credit, then, to the virtuoso work of all and especially the SACTUK and its charismatic lead, that the first half is still so warmly received. Gorgeous costumes of coloured beads, neckpieces and rustling skirts set off the astonishing performances from the choir, including the wonderful ‘Shosholoza’ – and in fact, to call this troupe of nine just a choir undersells them, as the dancing on display shows amazing skill and athleticism. And Turner does a great job with some Simon classics and some lesser-known favourites; ‘Homeward Bound’, especially, is heartfelt, and the gradual introduction of choir and full band in ‘Peace Like a River’ works a treat. The closing refrains of ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’, wrapping up the first half, are moving.

Naturally, though, it’s for part two that most have come, and from the opening refrains of ‘The Boy in the Bubble’ the audience melt. This largely seated performance sees everyone on their feet for the irresistible ‘You Can Call Me Al’ with an execution made even more brilliant by the fact that those on stage also seem to be having the time of their lives. Guitar and bass guitar solos taken by Turner’s band are performed with absolute aplomb and clear relish (although the full saxophone solo in ‘That Was Your Mother’ was missed), and rich colours light the stage to mark the warmth of the celebration.

Simon became hooked on South African music after hearing a bootleg cassette, and the rest is history. From the reception to this vigorous, joyful rendition of Graceland 33 years after its release, it’s clear that Simon’s own work, in turn, has hooked generations. Long may it last.

 

Reviewed by Abi Davies

Photography by Hamish Gill

 

Paul Simon’s Graceland Live

Shepherd’s Bush Empire & UK Tour

 

Other recent reviews by Abi:
Constellations | ★★ | Lilian Baylis Studio | June 2019
Kill Climate Deniers | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | June 2019
The Incident Pit | ★½ | Tristan Bates Theatre | July 2019
Alpha Who? | ★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | August 2019
The Indecent Musings Of Miss Doncaster 2007 | ★★★½ | Camden People’s Theatre | August 2019
1mm Au Dessus Du Sol | ★★★★ | Lilian Baylis Studio | September 2019
Jade City | ★★★ | The Bunker | September 2019
The Life I Lead | ★★★★ | Wyndham’s Theatre | September 2019
Murder On The Dance Floor | ★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | October 2019
The Ice Cream Boys | ★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | October 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews