Tag Archives: Amanda Mascarenhas

Coming Clean

★★★★

Trafalgar Studios

Coming Clean

Coming Clean

Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 10th January 2020

★★★★

 

“Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s production is atmospheric, moving and hugely enjoyable”

 

Screamingly funny and surprisingly moving, Coming Clean is an eighties anthem to love, friendship and the pain of infidelity. The play premiered in 1982, at the end of the more carefree pre-AIDS era when gay men didn’t have to think about that kind of danger. It’s a domestic drama, centred on the life of Tony and Greg, a couple who have what appears to be a stable non-monogamous relationship. Their neighbour and friend William is a party animal and disco queen, cruising and fucking his way round London’s gay scene. He is played with a glorious camp panache by Elliot Hadley, who also manages to convey the warmth and vulnerability beneath William’s outrageous surface. Hadley also makes a hilarious appearance, at the end of the play, as Jurgen, a leather clad German who Tony has brought home for sex. Tony and Greg, played by Lee Knight and Stanton Plummer-Cambridge, are a believable couple who live in Greg’s Kentish Town flat. Their fifth anniversary is coming up and all seems to be well until Tony hires a cleaner. When the cleaner arrives he turns out to be Robert, an attractive out of work actor. And we are on our way to a love triangle.

Lee Knight is superb as Tony, deeply in love with Greg but frustrated by his role as the one who does the housework and his problems with his writing. He is butterfly-like in his subtle mood shifts, becoming a little different depending who he is with, enjoying William’s camp bravado and Greg’s stable strength. Stanton Plummer-Cambridge’s Greg is focussed and taciturn; he can’t tell a joke and is irritated when things don’t go his way. But the two men are OK together, despite some sexual issues, until Robert arrives in their lives. Jonah Rzeskiewicz gives Robert a young, almost puppy like, enthusiasm and a pinch of endearing nervousness. He seems too sweet to be the cause of the pain to come.

The action all takes place in the flat, a perfect reincarnation of an eighties pad, created by designer Amanda Mascarenhas. From the rug on the floor to the Thriller poster on the wall it’s an evocation of a world when a pint of beer cost 90p and Kentish Town was an affordable place to live. The eighties music, and the classical records on the record player keep us firmly in the right time and place. Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s production is atmospheric, moving and hugely enjoyable. It is also nostalgically sad, because from our twenty-first century viewpoint we can see the looming shadow of the coming AIDS epidemic and the terrible suffering it brought to the gay community.

Kevin Elyot’s writing is sharp and witty and, although he uses some standard tropes, a partner returning home early, only to find his lover ‘at it’ with someone else, there is also a depth and understanding of the pain of infidelity that, with credit to Knight’s portrayal, is almost visceral. There is surprisingly little reference to the difficulties of being gay in 1982, Tony and Greg’s relationship being seemingly undisturbed by the outside world. It is only William’s attack that introduces a harsher societal context to the work.

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Ali Wright

 


Coming Clean

Trafalgar Studios until 1st February

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
A Hundred Words For Snow | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Admissions | ★★★ | March 2019
Scary Bikers | ★★★★ | April 2019
Vincent River | ★★★★ | May 2019
Dark Sublime | ★★★ | June 2019
Equus | ★★★★★ | July 2019
Actually | ★★★★ | August 2019
The Fishermen | ★★★½ | September 2019
A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg | ★★ | October 2019
The Girl Who Fell | ★★★★ | October 2019

 

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The Elixir of Love

★★★★★

King’s Head Theatre

The Elixir of Love

The Elixir of Love

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 30th September 2019

★★★★★

 

“Most impressive, perhaps, is that we can understand exactly what everyone is singing – something I’ve found to be an unfortunate rarity in traditional opera”

 

When presented with a modern undertaking of an opera, we’re so often only given a crumb of a crumb of modernity – contemporary costumes or a change of scenery perhaps. But lo and behold, when the curtains rise, it’s just the same old script, poorly disguised in trainers and a t-shirt.

Opera D’draig and the King’s Head Theatre’s shiny new take on The Elixir Of Love, directed by Hannah Noone, is not such a production. Wrenched from its original setting of 1830’s Spain, we find ourselves instead in 1980’s Barry, Wales – much better. But that’s just the start: Writers Chris Harris and David Eaton have near on chucked away Donizetti’s much lauded L’Elisir D’Amore, retaining only the key plot points and looking to their contemporary audience for inspiration rather than a bunch of tired old tropes and traditions. And what a success it is! There really is something gloriously satisfying about hearing a beautiful, soaring soprano singing ‘f*ck’.

The story itself would require a lot more meat as a straight play, but perhaps it’s the contrast of the usually conservative opera format and the unbridled irreverence of this production that makes it so compelling: We open with Adina’s caf, complete with wipe-down tables and menus, lots of big hair, shoulder pads and classic ‘80s knitwear (Amanda Mascarenhas).

Nicky (David Powton) is a wet blanket who spends all day gazing lovingly at café owner Adina (Alys Roberts) from afar. When Adina’s lover (Themba Mvula) returns from the army, Nicky becomes worried that he’ll lose his chance if he doesn’t act fast. In walks Dulcamara (Matthew Kellett), an oil slick in a suit selling various tonics to any sucker who’ll buy them. Spotting an ideal customer in Nicky he quickly persuades him to part with all his cash in exchange for an ‘elixir of love’, guaranteed to solve all his problems… And so on and so forth, with all the usual twists and misunderstandings of a comic opera.

Though this production would certainly appeal to a much wider audience who have perhaps felt alienated by opera in the past, it equally fulfils all the quality criteria of a seasoned opera-goer, with a cast of beautiful voices, Alys Roberts in particular deftly combining little flecks of Welsh dialect with rich, velvety top notes. Most impressive, perhaps, is that we can understand exactly what everyone is singing – something I’ve found to be an unfortunate rarity in traditional opera.

This is not opera as we know it. No more archaic, stodgy language and plotlines based around extinct social practices. The Elixir Of Love is gorgeously witty, furiously fast-paced and thoroughly contemporary.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Bill Knight

 


The Elixir of Love

King’s Head Theatre until 26th October

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Unsung | ★★★½ | April 2019
Coral Browne: This F***Ing Lady! | ★★ | May 2019
This Island’s Mine | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | June 2019
Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World | ★★★ | July 2019
Mating In Captivity | ★★★★ | July 2019
Oddball | ★★★½ | July 2019
How We Begin | ★★★★ | August 2019
World’s End | ★★★★ | August 2019
Stripped | ★★★★ | September 2019

 

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