“a musical comedy that needs to be stripped back and developed to make it into something that delivers the potential of its narrative”
‘Queereteria TV’ takes us post-apocalypse, as a group of gay men take over a TV station, that was the previous site of gay cruising club, Club Queereteria. It’s a queer comedy complete with music, dance and drag, and is the third in a trilogy of shows that follow Torsten’s journey (played by Andy Bell, Erasure), each accompanied by a concept album.
As we enter Above the Stag’s new and improved auditorium, it is clear that this is a beautiful space. David Shields’ set design compliments it well. Curved screens are used effectively throughout the play, particularly in the second half of the show, where we are placed in a kitchen, in the House of Commons and in an episode of Dragon’s Den. These sketches are also some of the strongest moments of the show, which unfortunately fails to deliver or develop much of a narrative that an audience can emotionally engage in.
The script, written by Barney Ashton-Bullock, is overwritten and overindulgent, and because of this it is frequently inaccessible. It is full of big ideas and aims to explore some vital topics including queer sexuality, fetish, gender conformity, the power of the media, societal pressure and conformity, however they fail to come together. Whilst it might work in a shorter format, a full length play where every other sentence is an innuendo quickly becomes repetitive, as there is no nuance to the humour. Unfortunately as a result, the whole play is one note. The fun and potential within the script could be condensed into an hour and be considerably more entertaining and investigative than the current product.
Ashton-Bullock also appears in the play as Torsten’s lover, Daniel. Unfortunately his acting is no better than his writing, and there is no chemistry between him and Bell. Torsten is consistently wooden and ultimately this feels like a glorified showcase for Bell’s singing. Tom Mann can clearly act but his dancing is sadly out of time, whilst William Spencer, who is also the choreographer, is a competent and stylish dancer, who struggles with his acting. There are certainly issues that director, Robert McWhir, should’ve ironed out to streamline these performances.
On a stronger note, Matthew Baldwin plays Lady Domina Bizarre and brings a fantastic energy to the stage. Baldwin is funny and vivid, and the best performance of the show. Peter Straker also delivers some lovely moments, finding a level of honesty and truth in a play that otherwise loses this in melodrama and overwriting.
This is a musical comedy that needs to be stripped back and developed to make it into something that delivers the potential of its narrative, and entertains with nuance.
“this musical packed as much energy as any West End show I’ve attended”
In the heart of Vauxhall, Above the Stag Theatre has established itself as the only professional LGBT+ theatre in the UK with Artistic Director Peter Bull introducing some exciting productions. Romance Romance is a revival of the 1980’s Broadway original, with book and lyrics by Barry Harman and music by Keith Herrmann. Marketed as a reimagining told through the exploration of gay attraction and relationships, this two-act musical offers two very different stories both connected by the theme of love. Act One, The Little Comedy, is set in 19th Century Vienna and provides a light-hearted, farcical story of two people who upon adopting new personas fall in love. Act Two jumps forward to a contemporary setting in The Hamptons for Summer Share, which explores the complexities of love through the possibility of an affair.
First and foremost for a small production this musical packed as much energy as any West End show I’ve attended. The driving force behind this was the cast of just four performers (Ryan Anderson, Jordan Lee Davies, Alex Lodge, and Blair Robertson) who each threw themselves into this production heart and soul. Powerful performances from all but notably Ryan Anderson who brought the house down with his solo number ‘How did I end up Here?’ Some fantastic casting as the dynamic between the four was electric, and by the end of Act Two, the idea of this being a reimagining as a means to explore gay attraction is so far out of the picture, it was as if it was meant to have been written this way. Act Two really stood out because of its exploration of love, emotion and the complexities of relationships offering something we can all connect to regardless of your sexual orientation.
The direction (Steven Dexter with Summer Strallen as associate director) ensured the absolute most was made of all available space which doubled the size of the production as it burst out from every part of the stage. David Shields’ smart design allowed for the set to be transformed in front of our eyes, transporting us from Vienna to The Hamptons in a blink of an eye. Live music filled the room from upstage where the band sat playing for all to see, emphasising just how much can be achieved in a studio space. The lighting design (Jack Weir) added another layer which allowed for us to be transformed from the character’s private thoughts to new locations. The production made the most of all it had and then some.
Overall this musical was very sharp and full of life. My only wish is that it could be realised on a bigger scale as it has so much to offer. Act One offers you fun, songs, silliness and dance with Act Two bringing the heart and soul; a musical of two very different halves but with something for everything!