FAME WHORE at the King’s Head Theatre
“It’s an interesting premise, and a great format in theory.”
There have been plenty of meditations on the problems with social media and influencers. And there have been plenty of stories told about the ugly truth behind fame. Fame Whore has as stab at both. And though we’ve seen these ideas many times before, there’s a complexity and messiness to this one which sticks with me on my journey home, and which ultimately makes it worth a watch.
Becky Biro is a hard-working drag artist, showcasing her sass and silly song-writing across the city. But she finds herself caught between wanting to do the right thing and promote the rights of the underrepresented, and being completely and utterly selfish, taking what she feels she deserves without consequence.
Having been rejected from Drag Factor year after year, she decides the only way she’ll be accepted is by gaining an undeniably massive and committed social media following. But how to go about it?
The show is split in to two main chunks: ‘1. Becky Biro is a good person and all of this just happened to her’, and ‘2. Becky is a total bitch, and this is what she really did’. It’s a great way to split up the narrative: first we get to know Becky, we’re on her side. Then we get down to the gritty truth.
This is the kind of drag I love, on a shoe-string budget, but with plenty of extra touches to keep our campy spirits up. A brilliant nod to Drag-Race star Sasha Velour’s shaking out her wig to reveal raining petals is a particular highlight.
Alys Whitehead’s design- a mirrored floor, a colour-changing ring light, and a glittery blue curtain- set the scene, but ultimately, Gigi Zahir is the show. Zahir, aka Crayola the Queen, is magnetic as fame-hungry Becky. Touting shallow nonsense- “Beckly Biro is delicious and good tasting but also nutritious. It’s not just donuts for dinner!”- so fluently, it’s as though the person behind the drag has been completely lost under that enormous blue wig. But Zahir is also a dab hand at dropping the façade abruptly, if only for a moment, so that we see the honest, whimpering desperation.
It’s an interesting premise, and a great format in theory. The trouble is, it’s a half hour too long, and ends up being a bit of a drag. Whilst Zahir is fabulous, and writer Tom Ratcliffe has moments of charming vitriol, the story just isn’t really meaty enough for 90 minutes straight through.
Reviewed on 11th October 2022
by Miriam Sallon
Photography by Charles Flint Photography
Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Tower Theatre
Reviewed – 20th June 2019
“A well-acted piece in a fascinating venue, although I’m not sure that the play is quite ready to remove its water wings”
When you announce to folk that you’re off to see a play in a disused swimming pool, you get some funny looks. But here, in the depths of the new Tower Theatre building, the splendidly named Humble Crumble and Loitering With Intent theatre companies plunged in with Alice Birch’s Little Light in support of the Mental Health Foundation and that is to be applauded.
The story is of a family reunion that takes place at the same time every year in a house by the sea. The same people attend, the exact same meal is eaten, the same wine drunk and the same rituals take place at exactly the same point in proceedings. Married couple Teddy and Alison are the hosts with Alison’s sister Clarissa the other invited guest. When Clarissa turns up heavily pregnant and with boyfriend Simon in tow, frayed tempers snap and the whole gathering goes horribly wrong.
The set (Poppy Crumpton) had a simple wooden table and chairs, when Simon arrives and he is finally offered a seat, it is child size so that his chin sits on the table, a visual gag lifted straight from Ayckbourn’s Table Manners. There is also a square hole in the floor, with a stepladder leading down to a lower level which all actors negotiated most nimbly. The only backing sound came at random times with a weird vibrating noise and apart from Teddie saying “Can anybody hear that” was never fully explained. Lights (Hugo Dodsworth) faded in and out, but considering the title and theme of the play, I would have liked to have seen a little more creativity.
The audience were sat in a kind of ‘T’ shape and this presented a tricky problem for director (Shani Erez). Although the cast moved around well, you were so close to the performance space that I often found myself staring straight into the back of one of the actors. Performances were very strong; Teddy (Eoin Bentick) seemed highly unstable and you expected him to snap at any point. Alison (Hannah Madison) spat each of her lines out with a sarcastic venom and is not somebody that I would ever want myself to be in a locked room with. Clarissa (Hannah Donelon) seemed at first to want to be initiating change, but ended up almost seeming like the most manic of the lot. Outsider Simon (Keeran Blessie) looked like he was going to be cheery and positive, but ended up talking over people that he had never met before, as if he was one of the family. I would have liked to have seen a little more contrast.
Grief is a horrific trauma that we will all have to deal with and it is absolutely right that the theatre does not shy away from this subject. But ninety minutes of family squabbling, sentences not being finished and vicious vindictiveness can be difficult to sit through, whatever the reason. I wish that Little Light had found some space for a bit more light, as relief from the dark subject matter that we were dealing with. This may have helped you connect with the characters more and encouraged you to share their grief.
A well-acted piece in a fascinating venue, although I’m not sure that the play is quite ready to remove its water wings.
Reviewed by Chris White
The Tower Theatre until 22nd June
Previously reviewed at this venue: