“it grips its audience immediately and has us on the edge of our seats”
It’s a Saturday night in April and Anthony is in a flat with eight or so other men that he doesn’t remember the names of. They have been going for eighteen hours – they’re high but not as high as they’ll be by the 36th hour or the 72nd. The twenty minute taxi ride to this flat was enough to start the sound in Anthony’s head, a sound that begins with ticking and then overwhelms. This is what he takes the drugs for to stop hearing. Also to feel his body moving from bone to cartilage. But tonight’s trip holds a surprise. The ghost of George, a young man and former flame of Anthony’s walks across his vision. His body was found the day before on the Tumulus, Hampstead Heath. The police said it was an overdose, that it isn’t even worth investigating. George, in ghost form, tells Anthony he has been murdered. George makes a deal with Anthony. Find my necklace and with it the killer, and I’ll stop the sound in your head. So our thriller begins.
The narrative, written by Christopher Adams, is funny at times, darkly awful at others. The thriller genre is a really original way to investigate the dark underside of the gay chemsex culture, and the dismissive police response to the death of young gay men in a society riddled with homophobia.
Ciaran Owens delivers a strong and convincing Anthony, playful and desperate and driven by something beyond his control. He is joined by Ian Hallard and Harry Lister Smith who create the many characters Anthony meets along his journey. Lister Smith embodies the young boys who go from lovers to victims, and Hallard competently alternates between cheery dog walkers, sinister villains and therapists, all ably directed by Matt Steinberg.
Both Hallard and Lister Smith, in their various guises, wear microphones that echo and distort their voices and lend them a disconcerting plurality. They create a soundscape of audio through objects held against microphones, reminiscent of a radio play made visible (sound design by Nick Manning). Set design (Alison Neighbour) is simple and effective, and Anthony paints the picture for us, making the table and cabinets chameleons in the space.
It isn’t a perfect production – there are moments that feel clumsy and unpolished – but it grips its audience immediately and has us on the edge of our seats, rooting for Anthony’s mission and, in turn, for George and the queer men, murdered but dismissed by the police, that he represents.
“an excellent format for a boozy night out with friends”
Continuing their now regular slot at the Leicester Square theatre, the Sh*t-Faced Showstoppers have swapped the boozy bard for drunken Dickens. If you haven’t heard of this now notorious troupe, five actors take to the stage to perform a classical theatre piece. The only catch is that one of them is very drunk. The group are most well-known for their take on Shakespeare classics; however this version of the Dickens musical drew just as big a crowd as most of their shows.
As you can imagine, or may well know, these shows are loose and riotous. The theatre itself has four bars, and it took fifteen minutes after the scheduled start time for the audience to move from the bar into their seats. The tacky set design with window etchings such as ‘Dickolas Dickleby woz ere’ further indicated what the audience were to expect. Indeed, what this group have created is an excellent format for a boozy night out with friends. The atmosphere in the room before the show was excitable, and the audience were free to shout and get involved. I was seated with beer in hand ready for whatever carnage may unfold.
The general consensus in the room was that most people enjoyed it, which was clear from the general hysteria in the room. Sadly, for me, I rather felt like the only sober person at a party full of jolly and drunk acquaintances. The drunken actor, playing Oliver Twist, slurred plenty of lines and went off on ludicrous tangents, speaking to the audience about subjects that had nothing to do with the play. It was a controlled mess which most people loved, however I felt rather short changed. Aside from the one inebriated actor, there wasn’t much to enjoy. The show appeared to be framed in a way that tailored best to the drunken actor, with short and simplified scenes that had plenty of room to allow them to be as silly as they want. Perhaps if it was the other way round, and the actor had to navigate themselves through a very tight-knit and nuanced show, I would have found it more entertaining.
The company has a unique premise, and indeed a crop of great talent. Their format has already achieved great success and looks as if it will continue to do so. If you are someone looking for a funny night out with friends, maybe a cultural pit-stop before a big night out, get yourself a ticket. If you are a theatre fan looking a comedic spin on some of your favourite shows, and you decide to go, maybe have a few drinks before.