The Crumple Zone
King’s Head Theatre
Reviewed – 29th November 2018
“remains an entertaining, if slightly dated, queer Christmas show”
The titular crumple zone refers to the part of a car designed to crumple up on impact to protect the people inside. It’s a fitting metaphor for the poor characters in this show who end up bearing the brunt of other peoples’ romantic decisions and works as well for the show itself. Although far from being a car crash, ‘The Crumple Zone’ tiptoes around a compelling and dramatic story, leaving the audience aware of an emotional punch, and yet completely unaffected by it.
Buddy Thomas’ script introduces us to Alex (Nick Brittain), Buck (Robbie Capaldi) and Terry (Lucas Livesey), all struggling actors working crappy jobs to get through the Christmas holidays. Alex is dating Buck, to the ignorance of the long-term girlfriend Sam (Natasha Edwards), and their relationship is put into question when Sam, to everyone’s surprise, returns home from tour on Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, Terry picks up Roger (Fanos Xenofos), another adulterer, using him as a rebound after his repeat rejection from Buck.
It’s certainly comedy caper territory, especially with Livesey’s Terry, whose wisecracking cynicism really makes the show enjoyable. However, Livesey is not matched by his fellow actors, who fail to raise the stakes when it’s needed most. Robert McWhir places his actors effectively, but no one seems affected or changed by the drama surrounding them. This is partly the script’s fault. Not only are a lot of the jokes and cultural references dated (to a Millennial at least!), but we don’t know who to root for. Relationships are simply not set up in such a way to make us care for anyone. The biggest betrayal barely registers for Sam, so why should it register for us? ‘The Crumple Zone’ is only eighteen years old, but it’s representation of gay/bisexual men as either cheaters or callously promiscuous does not hold up well. Not that I advocate only positive representation, but we do hope to see more nuanced characters these days.
All in all, I can see why this play was an “off-Broadway hit” back in 2000. Warm, witty, and with an incredibly watchable performance from Livesey, ‘The Crumple Zone’ remains an entertaining, if slightly dated, queer Christmas show.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by Joel M Photography
The Crumple Zone
King’s Head Theatre until 9th December
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue