“Self-aware and ironic, the show allows nothing, and yet everything, to be sacred”
Imagine you could travel back through time. Well, along your own lifetime. Where would you go? What crucial, formative moments would you love to revisit in all their cringey – or spectacular – glory? This is the premise for ‘Hot Gay Time Machine’, a wonderfully camp and self-aware musical cabaret now basking in the warm glow of a West End transfer.
Zak Ghazi-Torbati and Toby Marlow are an electrifying, hilarious double-act. With Marlow on keyboard, the pair journey forwards from their high school days staring at/avoiding “cocks in the locker room”, through coming out to their mums, to becoming the hot gay time machine specialists they are today. With writer/director Lucy Moss, the team have assembled a show that offers relatable stories, joyful musical numbers, and a fun exploration of being modern day (cis-white-privileged) gay men.
Self-aware and ironic, the show allows nothing, and yet everything, to be sacred. The humour masks a serious mission (donations to Stonewall were also welcomed at the end) to bring gay culture to ‘the mainstream’ with all the contradictions that come with that openly on display. At one point the duo ask themselves if they’ve ever had a gay male friend they’ve not had some sort of sexual relationship with. Answer: yes! Well, sort of. There is always “that one time.” Or “that other time.” And so it goes.
But this is an evening for all to enjoy. The songs are a constant game of bait-and-switch, lively and funny, and the show is an absolute blast from start to finish. Audience interaction is a necessity and the duo deal with heckles with cool bravado. The set is pink to the max, and yes, there is a shimmer curtain. A definite favourite for Friday night crowds, the audience seemed to love every minute of the show.
Bombastic, hilarious and musically inventive, ‘Hot Gay Time Machine’ is top-notch queer cabaret from three extremely talented artists.
“The company succeeds in conveying the narrative with a clear voice and creating emphatic and well-fitting roles”
Previously a place of worship, subsequently a female only gym, the broad octagonal expanse of Tower Theatre’s new home in Stoke Newington has plenty of potential for a set designer, especially one tasked with creating the numbing sense of distance demanded by The Seagull. For this production of Chekhov’s bleak comedy of imperfect relationships and mediocre talents stranded in the middle of nowhere, Rob Hebblethwaite creates a wide, painted landscape across the back of the hall, to set up an opening scene in which Konstantin (Dominic Chambers) stages a play outdoors with the sweet, young Nina (Rachael Harrison) hoping for the approval of his self-centred mother and her entourage.
After a strong opening, aided by Michael Frayn’s accessible translation and more particularly by Chamber’s excellently natural and rounded performance, this production starts to wane a little, but the amateur nature of the company is not without strengths. Chekhov’s characters are often better inhabited rather than performed and Tower Theatre’s long experience and large pool of members allows for some precise portrayals. As Sharayev, Richard Pederson is enjoyably boorish; Sorin is all too aware of his life’s inconsequentiality while perversely proud of his modest achievements, and Jonathan Norris manages this piteous balance effortlessly well. Even the tiny part of Yakov is entirely occupied by Alistair Maydon, stomping around like a man unaware of being on a stage. The more expressive central roles of Arkadina (Lucy Moss) and the successful writer Trigoran (David Hankinson) are harder ones in which to create the eerie naturalism that Chekhov’s dialogue allows. Both characters feel forced to start with, but they eventually settle down to deliver some compelling scenes; Moss and Chambers work together beautifully as the mother tends the son’s wounds and the way Hankinson as Trigoran succumbs knowingly to his own vanity and into Arkadina’s clutches, is engrossing.
Though this is Julia Collier’s directing debut at the company, her experience in pantomime brings unlikely benefits. There is no sense of holding back on costumes (Lynda Twidale) or movement (Lindsay Royan) and the clarity of characters and storyline is refreshing. Her approach does the audience the favour of making the dialogue and therefore the relationships (or lack of them) easy to follow. The show could improve; the play’s delicately told but heart-rending story of Medvedenko and Masha, for example, seems to be missing in plain sight, but if the combination of am-dram and Chekhov gives you the chills, this production could give you a fresh perspective of both. The company succeeds in conveying the narrative with a clear voice and creating emphatic and well-fitting roles.