Tag Archives: David Loumgair

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


Tiny Dynamite – 4 Stars


Tiny Dynamite

Old Red Lion Theatre

Reviewed – 12th January 2018


“moments of light, sound and movement punctuate the changes of scene, mesmerising the audience”


In its first revival since 2003, Abi Morgan’s play ‘Tiny Dynamite’ is an echo of the original production but with a twist. Ten years after a traumatic event, which sends two childhood friends down very different paths, their annual summer holiday together is the scenario for confronting what has left them incapable of moving on and the secret of their dependency.

In this production, David Loumgair, who shows himself to be an exciting and innovative director, changes the gender of Lucien to a woman, Luce. This works well with Luce showing platonic concern and responsibility for her life-long friend Anthony. Both Eva-Jane Willis and Niall Bishop hold the audience’s attention as the layers of their story are peeled away by the appearance of Madeleine, played by Tanya Fear, the catalyst who sparks their buried feelings. However, the stated contrast between the two friends is belied by the character writing. The overly talkative nature of Anthony comes across well but the quietness of Luce is undermined by, quite simply, the number of lines she has, as well as the similarly placid Madeleine. But Luce’s ordered, conventional shell finally cracks in the most moving scene of the play, revealing the relationship’s true balance. Anthony, hit by lightning at the age of six, struggles with the internal static of his emotions and this creates his own hidden turmoil, cleverly enhanced by special effects.

The set by Anna Reid resembles that of the 2003 staging at the Lyric, Hammersmith – wooden decking surrounded by a moat of water, marooning the characters in their triangular relationship. Added to the beautifully economical handling of props, the use of water on stage is refreshing, although the moat could be used to more advantage. The minimalist music (Dan Jeffries) is in keeping with the set and subtly dresses the scenes, only once or twice becoming a distraction. Bare lightbulbs hang above the stage as an aesthetic presence and integral effect (lighting by Zoe Spurr). Coordinated moments of light, sound and movement (Natasha Harrison, Movement Director) punctuate the changes of scene, mesmerising the audience.

Since writing ‘Tiny Dynamite’ Abi Morgan has gone on to have a successful career writing for film and television, genres she says she feels more comfortable with. Here she infuses an underlying discomfort rather than the tension needed to capture an audience from the start. The concept of the title – tiny things sparking off huge reactions – is not altogether coherent and in the end the play is about knowing when to take responsibility for our actions and when to leave things to fate.

Despite some thematic inconsistency ‘Tiny Dynamite’ Is brilliantly executed with fine performances and artistic flair.

Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington 

Photography by Richard Davenport


Tiny Dynamite

Old Red Lion Theatre until 3rd February



Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com