Tag Archives: King’s Head Theatre

Don’t Frighten the Straights

★★★

King’s Head Theatre

Dont Frighten the Straights

Don’t Frighten the Straights

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd November 2019

★★★

 

“The atmosphere and delivery are both very warm and personal as if a friend is sharing their weekend revelry over a cup of tea”

 

Don’t Frighten the Straights! is a storytelling showcase performed by BBC comedy and drama producer Turan Ali. Ali has a repertoire of around 40 outrageous stories but in his newest production only recounts a select four (plus a bonus encore micro-story).

The audience hears all about a romp with a hunky maybe-Nazi in the Ukraine, the fulfilment of a late friend Andrew’s wishes to have his ashes scattered in the Kitchen Department of Edinburgh’s John Lewis, an eight-year battle of wits with a homophobic father-in-law and a frightened Police Constable from Yorkshire being sent to live with a gay couple for the weekend. Ali declares that his show aims to provide an “antidote to the new gay stereotypes” by sharing stories from real gay people and his own life.

Ali is a confident storyteller and his voice is very soothing. The atmosphere and delivery are both very warm and personal as if a friend is sharing their weekend revelry over a cup of tea. At times, however, this can mean that there is a lack of oomph and excitement and jokes consistently fail to land with their full potential. The four tales are not risqué enough to be shocking and dirtier turns are shrouded entirely in innuendo.

The show begins with an assertion that the lives of gay men “are not all like Ru Paul’s Drag Race or Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” before the audience is then entertained with stories rife with stereotypes (and drag!) from his flamboyant friend Malcolm to Grindr sexcapades. He also proclaims that he is fed up of seeing LGBT+ stories in the media end in abject tragedy but none of his stories end particularly happily at all. It is thus not completely believable that there is a purpose to these stories other than to get a laugh.

There were some serious moments where Ali would have benefited from lingering such as when he notes that the Police Constable made sure to pack antiseptic wipes when staying with two homosexual men. Another shocking anecdote is Andrew’s doctor implying that his terminal cancer of the rectum was a punishment for his sexual activity.

These snippets provide a truly touching insight into the gay experience, but Ali is quick to move on or play such occurrences for laughs. Talking about Andrew is the most moving and gripping part of the performance and this is then followed by the production’s strongest story which demonstrates that Ali is capable of fusing serious and comedy in a highly successful way. More of this would be wonderfully elevating.

There is some brief audience participation in which a specifically male volunteer comes down and rips off Ali’s trousers to reveal a kilt that helps set Scottish scene of the last two stories. This and a sporran are the only props used. The lighting only changes significantly between stories where the stage goes completely black and snippets from Ruth Wallis’ song Queer Things play.

Don’t Frighten the Straights! is an amusing show but Ali is too concerned with not making the audience uncomfortable that he fails to spotlight the real stories of the gay community as he promises.

 

Reviewed by Flora Doble

 


Don’t Frighten the Straights

King’s Head Theatre until 4th November

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
This Island’s Mine | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | June 2019
Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World | ★★★ | July 2019
Mating In Captivity | ★★★★ | July 2019
Oddball | ★★★½ | July 2019
How We Begin | ★★★★ | August 2019
World’s End | ★★★★ | August 2019
Stripped | ★★★★ | September 2019
The Elixir Of Love | ★★★★★ | September 2019
Tickle | ★★★★ | October 2019

 

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Tickle: The Musical

★★★★

King’s Head Theatre

Tickle: The Musical

Tickle: The Musical

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 16th October 2019

★★★★

 

“the full-on Las Vegas style finale, ‘What Would Julie Andrews Do?’ sends the audience out into the night on a whoosh of feathers, fantasy and fun”

 

Tickle is based on a true story, and invites the audience into the strange world of competitive endurance tickling. Best friends Chris and Callum, skint and stuck in a boring town, get recruited as a tickle team by savvy businesswoman Davina Diamond, on behalf of her boss Tina Tickle. They quickly rise to the very top and are making more money than they could have dreamed of, but neither the tickling world, nor their friendship, is as straightforward as it seems. Chris Burgess (book, music and lyrics) has fashioned a delightful and playfully sexy new musical from this tale, and his four strong cast, directed by Robert McWhir, and with fabulous piano accompaniment from musical director David Eaton, do him proud.

The show’s opening number – Drab Town – is let down by its choreography, which lacks clarity, but we get a taster of James McDowell’s lovely voice, which only opens out more as the show goes on. This is McDowell’s professional musical debut, and we will most assuredly be hearing more from him. He doesn’t quite convince as a working class lad, however, and as his voice becomes richer and stronger, so his accent morphs back into his native tones. His performance becomes more natural as a result, but his character – Chris – seems to have entirely changed. This lack of consistency doesn’t really matter in the context of this light-hearted musical confection, but is something to watch. Ben Brooker, as Callum, on the other hand, is fully believable throughout, as Chris’ lovelorn best friend, but his vocal strength is inconsistent, and he doesn’t always fully hit his musical mark.

Amy Sutton is terrific as Davina, and owns the stage with sparkling charisma and a powerful, clear singing voice. Her introductory solo – the splendidly funny ‘It’s not Gay’ – gives the show the injection of oomph it needs, and allows it to drive forwards with energy and chutzpah. In this, she is aided and abetted by Rich Watkins, who is a marvellous drag Tina Tickle. Tina is a larger than life, tragi-comic creation, switching between poignant loneliness and battle-axe camp, with more than a whiff of Norma Desmond, and Watkins plays her with delicious performative relish. Tina and Davina are a formidable team, though, again, they are let down by clunky choreography, noticeable especially in their duet, ‘The Tickle Twosome’.

For the most part, the show zips along, and wears its combination of titillation, tenderness and tinsel with aplomb. There are laughs aplenty, and the full-on Las Vegas style finale, ‘What Would Julie Andrews Do?’ sends the audience out into the night on a whoosh of feathers, fantasy and fun. Just perfect to tickle your fancy on a chilly October night.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Peter H Davies

 

kings head theatre

Tickle: The Musical

King’s Head Theatre until 26th October

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Coral Browne: This F***Ing Lady! | ★★ | May 2019
This Island’s Mine | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | June 2019
Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World | ★★★ | July 2019
Mating In Captivity | ★★★★ | July 2019
Oddball | ★★★½ | July 2019
How We Begin | ★★★★ | August 2019
World’s End | ★★★★ | August 2019
Stripped | ★★★★ | September 2019
The Elixir Of Love | ★★★★★ | September 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews