Tag Archives: Celine Lowenthal

Red Palace

★★★½

The Vaults

Red Palace

Red Palace

The Vaults

Reviewed – 2nd October 2019

★★★½

 

“All the necessary components are there … I could just do with a little more amazement and a little less explanation”

 

Shotgun Carousel’s reputation for outlandish and stunningly executed immersive events far precedes their current show, Red Palace. After last year’s outrageously decadent Divine Proportions, I was fully prepared for an evening of hedonistic debauchery, expertly implemented to lavish excess.

he concept (Laura Drake Chambers) is strong from the start, and all-encompassing: There is a prophesy known across the land that after a thousand days on the throne, the tyrant prince will come to a bloody end. But the prince has no intention of giving up his rule and instead he’s throwing a party on the very day this prophecy should come to pass. Dress code is “your best ball attire and a mask to match” ( don’t worry, you can borrow a mask at the box office). It really is very effective to walk in to a dimly lit room full of masked faces, even if you know most of those are your fellow audience members.

For those who decide to indulge, dinner is served before the main event in a gallery overlooking the hoi polloi. MasterChef semi-finalist Annie McKenzie has whipped up a true feast – I’ll be thinking about that sticky honey soda bread with whipped rosemary butter for days to come, and I only wish I’d snuck in some tupperware for a little more of that rich, crispy shallot tarte tatin.

Performances are promised throughout dinner, but instead we’re occasionally introduced to a character from the main show’s narrative who we’ll no doubt encounter again later in the evening. This is a little disappointing: A performance suggests something of a spectacle and instead we have a preview of a show we’re already signed up to see. The cast themselves are magnificently adorned (Maeve Black) in gothic glamour, and they each play their parts with impressive commitment, even when hassled by substandard audience banter.

The show itself, directed by Celine Lowenthal, takes over the majority of The Vaults, sending the audience sprawling across various nooks and crannies throughout the venue. Initially there’s a sense that we might wander casually from room to room, making discoveries for ourselves, but after the first, we’re shepherded from one spot to the other to observe various necessary parts of the evening’s main plot.

The aesthetics don’t disappoint. Every space has been lovingly crafted to create vastly different atmospheres in each: Snow (White), styled as Barbie Madonna, is throwing a very sad birthday party in her sickly pink boudoir; Gretel (of the famous brother and sister duo) hosts an illegal cabaret with bathtub gin to boot; Red (Riding Hood) hides in the dark, dank forest, plotting her revenge against the prince. But concepts aren’t quite taken to their fabulous potential so within reach. Instead there’s a slight amateur fiddliness to it all, causing a lag between the evening’s tent-pole performances, and slightly sapping the fun out of it as the audience shuffles from one room to the next.

All the necessary components are there: stunning designs, exquisite food, engrossing performances and a well thought out concept. I could just do with a little more amazement and a little less explanation. No need to continuously force feed us the plot, we just want to have a radically decadent unicorn of an evening. Whilst for most that would be too much to ask, it’s what we’ve come to expect from Shotgun Carousel, and on this occasion they’ve just missed the mark.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Nic Kane

 


Red Palace

The Vaults until 12th January 2020

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Donal The Numb | ★★★★ | March 2019
Essex Girl | ★★★★ | March 2019
Feed | ★★★★ | March 2019
How Eva Von Schnippisch Won WWII | ★★★★ | March 2019
The Talented Mr Ripley | ★★★★ | March 2019
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Bare: A Pop Opera | ★★★ | June 2019
Black Is The Color Of My Voice | ★★★★ | June 2019
Me and my Whale | ★★★ | June 2019
The Falcon’s Malteser | ★★★★★ | July 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Sex Sex Men Men
★★★★★

The Yard Theatre

Sex Sex Men Men

Sex Sex Men Men

The Yard Theatre

Reviewed – 27th February 2019

★★★★★

 

“By the end, the show is joyous and silly. The set a backdrop of vibrant, glittery and soft fabrics imitates this playful atmosphere”

 

Sex is getting more complicated. Out of the confusion and the strangeness, Pecs have created a non-binary cabaret performed by seven very different and very brilliant drag kings. The show interrogates masculinity, exploring not only vulnerability but what it is to inhabit the kinds of strength that masculinity offers. The result is an evening of songs, dance, comedy and dramatic pieces that create a picture of male sexuality as a changing and nuanced spectrum.

Like many drag shows, Sex Sex Men Men seems to take parody as a starting point. The charismatic Cesar Jentley (Kit Griffiths) opens the show dressed in no less than a top hat and tail coat, simultaneously echoing both Ascot and cabaret. But with all good parody, there is an element of sincerity and Temi Wilkey’s Drag King Cole a lip-syncing dance that is heart-felt as well as hilarious. Victor Victorious’ (Victoria Aubrey) solo dance and strip is also nothing short of incredible.

From there, the show gets more serious and the comedy is always rooted in awareness that discussing gender also means discussing persecution, prejudice and abuse. In fact, the show does delve into the darkness of sexual abuse but there are plenty of warnings and opportunities for the audience members to leave. There are also some very explicit scenes and the audience, again, is forewarned. The show does not rely on shock value but on a desire to create an offering of performances that are about sex in all its roughness, gentleness, pleasure and pain.

What also stands out is that the show is interspersed with testimonies written by men on online forums. The stories range from confessions, confusing gay encounters to asking for advice about toxic masculine friendships. In these moments, it becomes clear that Pecs are opening the floor to more varied and frank discussions about relationships and gender. But there is a sadness in the disconnectedness of this as the stories have been put out into the void of the internet and are therefore both intensely personal and completely anonymous.

By the end, the show is joyous and silly. The set (Jasmine Swan), a backdrop of vibrant, glittery and soft fabrics imitates this playful atmosphere. The show is bold. There are some great ensemble dance numbers, there is nudity, food play, and a melancholic undressing scene to the music of Anthony and the Johnsons (which made this reviewer cry). Pecs have put gender on stage to remind us that it is a performance; a piece which we should all take seriously and have some serious fun with.

 

Reviewed by Tatjana Damjanovic

Photography by Holly Lucas

 


Sex Sex Men Men

The Yard Theatre until 16th March

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Super Duper Close Up | ★★★★★ | November 2018
24 Italian Songs and Arias | ★★★★★ | January 2019
48 Hours: | ★★ | January 2019
Call it a Day | ★★★ | January 2019
Hotter Than A Pan | ★★★★ | January 2019
Plastic Soul | ★★★★ | January 2019
A Sea Of Troubles | ★★★★★ | February 2019
Cuteness Forensics | ★★½ | February 2019
To Move In Time | ★★½ | February 2019
Ways To Submit | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

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