Tag Archives: James Whiteside

Torch Song

Torch Song


Turbine Theatre

Torch Song

Torch Song

 Turbine Theatre

Reviewed – 6th September 2019



“McOnie does a spectacular job of adapting Torch Song for the contemporary stage”


The Turbine Theatre is a brand-new venue set beneath the railway arches south of Battersea Power Station. Exposed brickwork, modern furnishings and large windows reflects the theatre’s desire to create productions with a ‘new energy’ for ‘contemporary audiences’.

What better way then to open the inaugural season with a revival of Harvey Fierstein’s seminal work, Torch Song. Directed by Drew McOnie it tells the story of drag queen Arnold Beckoff (Matthew Needham) and his quest for true love in 1970s Manhattan. He first falls for a confused bisexual man named Ed (Dino Fetscher) who dithers between him and girl-next-door Laurel (Daisy Boulton). Fed up with Ed’s lack of commitment, he starts dating young model Alan (Rish Shah) before tragedy strikes. Years later, he adopts a gay teenager named David (Jay Lycurgo) and attempts to rebuild his relationship with Ed. All the while, longs for the approval of his Ma (Bernice Stegers).

Needham has fantastic chemistry with all his co-stars. Needham and Ferscher are thoroughly convincing in the role of agonised and confused lovers, and Needham’s witty back and forth with Lycurgo is enchanting to watch. Lycurgo brings a great energy to the stage, and Stegers switches effortlessly between the comic stereotype of the overbearing Jewish mother and the wallowing widow. Stegers and Needham’s arguments about love and loss will have the audience on tenterhooks.

The set (Ryan Dawson Laight) is amazingly adaptable. A neon sign hangs above the stage indicating each of the parts in Fierstein’s trilogy  – ‘International Stud’, ‘Fugue in a Nursery’ and ‘Widows and Children First!’. In the first act we see just Arnold’s makeup dresser and two phones. The second act – one bed, though the way in which the actors interact with the space creates the illusion of two separate rooms and beds. The set becomes marvellously elaborate in the third act as the audience is transported to Arnold’s new home. The décor is gaudy and thoroughly 1970s. Bright green counters at the back and a working oven are used by Ed to make an unappealing breakfast of eggs, onions and kippers on stage.

The apartment set is dismantled seamlessly to transform into the street outside. Low blue light and cold air pumped into the audience tells us it is night. The lighting (James Whiteside) is used well elsewhere too, notably, to create the dingy surroundings of a nightclub’s ‘backroom’ where men engage in anonymous sex.

Torch Song is both touching and raucously funny. The characters are flawed but entirely relatable due to this, and the script is excellent. The play’s issues of love, loss and acceptance are still relevant today making Fierstein’s work a timeless insight into the human condition. McOnie does a spectacular job of adapting Torch Song for the contemporary stage and this is definitely a production worth shouting about.



Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Mark Senior


Torch Song

Turbine Theatre until 13th October


Previous shows covered by this reviewer:
The Knot | ★★★★ | Old Red Lion Theatre | June 2019
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | King’s Head Theatre | June 2019
50 Years Of LGBT/Pride Panel And Discussion | ★★★★ | h Club | July 2019
Have I Told You I’m Writing a Play About my Vagina? | ★★★★ | The Bunker | July 2019
The Falcon’s Malteser | ★★★★★ | The Vaults | July 2019
Type On Paper | ★★★★ | Tabard Theatre | July 2019
Camp | ★★★ | Lion & Unicorn Theatre | August 2019
Towards Zero | ★★★★★ | The Mill at Sonning | August 2019


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Ain’t Misbehavin’

Mercury Theatre

Aint Misbehavin

Ain’t Misbehavin’

Mercury Theatre Colchester

Reviewed – 20th March 2019



“The energy that flowed from the musicians was infectious as they recreated the nightlife of the era”


Stepping into the Mercury Theatre to see Ain’t Misbehavin’ was like stepping into the Jazz clubs of Harlem in the 1920s. The smooth tones of the music transported us deep into the life of Fats Waller, the iconic African-American jazz pianist, organist, composer and comedic entertainer. The show, not prescribing to any linear structure or story, explored the musical talents of Waller by embracing a selection of his work including ‘Your Feet’s Too Big’ and ‘The Viper’s Drag.’ The songs were performed by Adrian Hansel, Carly Mercedes-Dyer, Landi Oshinowo, Renée Lamb and Wayne Robinson, who each, with their own impressive array of talents, added a unique flair to every tune. The quality was outstanding, as each performer amazed with their booming voices and effortless dance moves choreographed to perfection by the brilliant Oti Mabuse.

Making his directing debut, Tyrone Huntley proved his creative talents extend to offstage as well as on. He has ensured that every element of the show conveys the period and the true essence and freedom of Jazz.

At first, the absence of a storyline was noticeable and I caught myself thinking that the presence of scripted dialogue could have tied the songs together more efficiently. However, by the second act this thought was disregarded as we journeyed into more slow and sombre numbers.

‘The Viper’s Drag’ was a particularly impressive number, hypnotic as it stirred a silent excitement in the audience. Waller’s words filled the theatre, as Wayne Robinson smoked away, singing about getting high and dancing slickly across the floor. The audience watched as his feet slid across the stage, his body resembling ‘The Viper.’ The song ‘Black and Blue’ delved into the topic of race and importantly touched upon typical white American views towards black identities at the time. The power of the lyrics, “I’m white inside, but that don’t help my case, Cause I can’t hide what is on my face,” created a story and perhaps indicated Huntley’s vision of allowing the music to speak for itself.

It would be criminal not to acknowledge the excellent live band that performed alongside the outstanding cast. The energy that flowed from the musicians was infectious as they recreated the nightlife of the era enhanced by the stunning period set and costume design (takis).

Ain’t Misbehavin’ was hugely entertaining. A beautifully crafted piece of theatre from the Made In Colchester stable reflecting the talents of a bygone era.


Reviewed by Maddie Stephenson

Photography by Pamela Raith


Ain’t Misbehavin’

Mercury Theatre Colchester until 30th March


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Turn of the Screw | ★★★ | March 2018
Pieces of String | ★★★★ | April 2018
Europe After the Rain | ★★★★ | May 2018
Silence | ★★★★ | October 2018


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