Tag Archives: Alex Marlow

In the Beginning



In the Beginning

In the Beginning


Reviewed – 10th February 2020



“The foam padding around his hips and his flaming red wig are presented as just as authentic as the mud and green of the countryside”


‘Performing the words of Alex Marlow, please welcome to the stage… Alex Marlow’. Written on Subterranean Homesick Blues style placards, the opening of In The Beginning aptly opens a show that perfectly embodies the new wave of self aware, contextualised drag performance.

London is currently home to an exciting and innovative culture of burlesque that challenges and pushes the limit of what is traditionally seen as drag. From the rise of Drag Kings in collectives like The Pecs to The London Short Film Festival opening with a night of alternative drag, showcasing cabaret that centres around neurodivergence and race, this is an exciting place to be. With this show, writer and performer Alex Marlow and director Deirdre McLaughlin offer a highly personal and sensitive contribution to this, ultimately pulling at the corners of cabaret itself and seeing where its limits are.

The show jumps around between genres, from mainstays of drag like the lip synch, the clanging double entendre and the intense eye contact with the audience, to more serious formats such as poetry, personal memoir and long moments of introspective silence. What complicates this is that they are not sealed off from each other but intertwined and overlapping. There are intense poetic monologues delivered in full drag and lip synched numbers in jogging bottoms. All the while, Marlow is narrating small vingettes of his life now and his life growing up queer in rural Lancashire, tackling huge topics with personal specificity and grace. This erratic combining does not make for a confusing piece, however, but for one that is touching and funny, requiring the audience to second guess their assumptions about gender, performance and power at every new combination.

The success of this relies heavily on Marlow as the single performer. Luckily, he is an excellent one. His physical performance is by far his strong point as he throws his body round an almost empty stage, flipping from catwalk to skulking to modern dance. He also has incredible comic timing, as is showcased in a short, strangely emotional skit about anal sex and guava which he performs whilst happily snacking on the fruit which he has pulled out of his bra.

Although sparsely populated, the staging and props of this piece create one of its strongest features. Marlow flips between wearing a wig and not, and whilst he isn’t, it sits on an elevated wig stand, watching over the proceedings like a judge. Drag is about layers, traditionally the adding of them. Make-up, padding and prosthetics take the natural and make them unnatural. Marlow complicates this by constantly playing with these layers and shifting around in them. Clothes are taken on and off in quick succession, a full face of makeup disintegrates but shiny earrings remain. There are also long poetry sequences about nature and the pastoral, surely the most ‘real’ thing which most drag avoids dealing with for precisely that reason. Marlow runs into it, however, relishing in the smell of crushed nettles and smearing mud over his impeccably done face.

The smartest move he makes is that none of these layers are prioritised. The foam padding around his hips and his flaming red wig are presented as just as authentic as the mud and green of the countryside. Drag can be gritty reality as much as it can be escape from it. Although perhaps some of the writing could be neater and the transitions between sketches smoother, this is a dazzling piece of cabaret that shows that there is no truth under drag but rather, like turtles, its drag all the way down.


Reviewed by Cleo Henry

Photography by Holly Revell


In the Beginning

Katzpace until 12th February


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Dead Reckoning | ★★½ | May 2019
Everything Today Is The Same | ★★★ | May 2019
Fight. Flight. Freeze. Fuck. | ★★★ | May 2019
You’re Dead Mate | ★★★★ | June 2019
Romeo & Juliet | ★★★★ | July 2019


Click here to see our most recent reviews


Review of Outlaws to In-laws – 4 Stars


Outlaws to In-laws

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 31st August 2017





“it has it’s fair share of sequins, cutting remarks, and tight white underwear!”



If I’m honest – I didn’t feel great about going to the theatre this evening. After a hectic (and fun!) extra long weekend, today was a lazy day to recover before work tomorrow. I fancied climbing into PJs and selecting a spot on the sofa rather than climbing into the car and searching for a place to park!

So I gave myself a good talking to. Being a no-show is never an option and only once in my life have I left at an interval because the play was so awful (not naming and shaming here!). So I ate an early meal and braved the drive across the Isle of Dogs to Islington.

I know the Kings Head Pub theatre well and am happy that their almost 50 successful years are to be rewarded with a move to ‘better’ premises – but I will miss their current venue when they go.

Thanks to the usual London traffic I pretty much skidded to a halt in the last legal spot by the pub and threw myself into the auditorium as the lights dimmed! And that was pretty much the pace set for the evening …

‘Outlaws to In-laws’ is two hours long (including the interval) and tackles a decade about every 15 minutes. It takes the audience through the struggles and hopes, dreams and joys of gay men from a time when being themselves was unlawful to present day.

Each scene is set with a contemporary event: the Queen’s coronation, Police arrests of the sixties, Skinhead violence of the seventies and the bombing of the Tory conference in the eighties as well as charting the untimely death of Diana, Princess of Wales (appropriately on the 20th anniversary), and referencing the rise in dating websites for the turn of the 21st century. Through each decade though, many of the challenges and choices remained the same for the characters even as society slowly altered.

Drug culture, whether pill or pint or pot, was intertwined in the passing of time. Alongside this, the devastating arrival of HIV and AIDS, initially seen as a death sentence within the gay community, showing it as now a far more manageable condition.

We are all aware that intolerance, bias, hate, ignorance and violence has not yet disappeared from society but it was heartening to be reminded we have all come a long way in the right direction. The production ends more cheerfully and hopefully with a (possibly) ‘happy ever after’ moment in 2017, at the first gay wedding in a church.


Each decade has been written by a different playwright but a narrative weaves it’s way through them all beautifully with hinted at links between each tale. The cast (Myles Devontè, Paul Carroll, Alex Marlow, Elliot Balchin, Jack Hence and Michael Duke) were wonderful, switching between roles and eras with seamless perfection.

Despite what may sound like a history lesson of gay life, be reassured it has it’s fair share of sequins, cutting remarks, and tight white underwear! The scripts are littered with laugh out loud moments, often used to offset a more emotional moment, without lessening the point. The audience appreciated it all, giggling in anticipation with a few belly laughs thrown in.


Queer Festival

As the opener to the Queer Festival ’17, Outlaws to In-laws is a fantastic play that deserves, and needs, to be seen by everyone.



Reviewed by Joanna Hinson

Production Photography by Paul Dyke



is at The King’s Head Theatre until 23rd September




Click here to read more about the King’s Head Theatre’s exciting new venue


Click here to see a list of the latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com