Tag Archives: Luke W Robson

Velvet

Velvet

★★★

Above the Stag

Velvet

Velvet

Above the Stag

Reviewed – 4th October 2019

★★★

 

“As a monologue, it feels, at times, too much like someone reading a short story aloud”

 

Transferring from a successful Edinburgh Fringe run in 2018, ‘Velvet’ is an engaging, raw, and realistic portrayal of a young actor falling victim to someone willing to misuse their position of power. Written and performed by Tom Ratcliffe, it’s a complex and riveting engagement with the #MeToo movement, countering the usual newspaper narratives by showing a young gay man’s perspective.

Fresh out of drama school, Tom is a young actor looking for a break. His boyfriend Matthew is supportive, but ultimately waiting for Tom’s dreams to die. Tired of unstable “money-jobs” and unsuccessful auditions, Tom gets to know a casting director on Grindr who offers the actor a big break. Whilst we are all screaming “NO DON’T DO IT”, Tom finds out the price of being given a chance to star in a huge Hollywood film, and suffers the fall-out once that price is paid.

Ratcliffe gives a likeable performance as Tom, shifting between characters with comic speed and precision. With an intensely likeable character such as this, it’s truly sad seeing him treading a familiar but ultimately doomed path. By setting the majority of the action just before the #MeToo movement started, we see how vulnerable young people in the industry can be, and we understand the power of how that movement changed the way society and characters such as Tom view themselves.

Luke W Robson’s set design is lusciously simple. Chess board floor feels like a potent visual metaphor for actions having swift and irreconcilable consequences. A pinkish-red velvet chaise-longue becomes a zone of fake intimacy. On a screen at the back, we see the Grindr and WhatsApp conversations playing out in real time, with Ratcliffe having terse conversations with a deep, mysterious voice coming from the heavens. I loved these moments of “chat”. They felt filled with tension, both sexual and dramatic. I was less convinced by Tom’s more direct address to his audience. As a writer, Ratcliffe is a real talent, and his ‘Circa’ at the Old Red Lion this year was superb. This feels like a story in need of other characters, other actors, to flesh it out and give it the dramatic finish it deserves. As a monologue, it feels, at times, too much like someone reading a short story aloud.

That said, it is a rollercoaster of a story for Tom. Director Andrew Twyman draws out a nuanced performance from Ratcliffe, but again, the final moments feel a little rushed through, despite a nicely unexpected framing device coming back in for the final scene. Recommended certainly – and hopefully not the last we see of this intriguing play.

 

Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich

Photography by Lidia Crisafulli

 

Above The Stag Theatre

Velvet

Above the Stag until 27th October

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Title Of Show | ★★★★ | February 2019
Goodbye Norma Jeane | ★★ | March 2019
Romance Romance | ★★★★ | March 2019
Queereteria TV | ★★ | April 2019
Fanny & Stella: The Shocking True Story  | ★★★★ | May 2019
Happily Ever Poofter | ★★★★ | July 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Tokyo Rose

★★★★

Underbelly Cowgate

Tokyo Rose

Tokyo Rose

Underbelly Cowgate

Reviewed – 13th August 2019

★★★★

 

“Burnt Lemon have shone a light on another silenced woman’s story, leaving the audience educated and thoroughly entertained”

 

Slick and inventive, Burnt Lemon’s new musical focuses on one American woman’s struggle through war and xenophobia to get back home. Based on the story of Iva Toguri vs the United States, we meet Iva (Maya Britto) in her formative years at UCLA during the 1940s. She is an American woman of Japanese descent “Born with American dreams running through (her) veins”. At the request of her mother (Yuki Sutton) she goes to Japan to care for a sick aunt. Within a few weeks. the events at Pearl Harbour instigate the US joining World War Two leaving Iva stranded, unable to go back to America and without a family.

She is pressurised by the Japanese government to renounce her American citizenship and broadcast anti-American propaganda at Radio Tokyo. In rebellion, she refuses to give up her American status and becomes a double agent passing disguised messages to the American allies through her supposedly anti-American indoctrination. When Iva is later brought to trial by the United States accused of treason, the injustice of her tribulation sits heavy in the air.

The plot is very convoluted but the writing partnership of Maryhee Yoon and Cara Baldwin has been concise and eloquent in exhibiting the facts. Bolstered by composer William Patrick Harrison’s pop-cum-rap music which resonates with some jaw dropping vocals throughout, in particularly from Lucy Park and Yuki Sutton. The ensemble multi-rolling as many different characters is impressively smooth, as is their choreography and physical storytelling.

Luke W Robson’s set design is minimalist, and versatile. With the wooden Radio Tokyo apparatus at the heart of the set, later used as the judge’s bench when Iva arrives in the American courtroom.

Tokyo Rose, from this all female powerhouse, is truly astonishing. Burnt Lemon have shone a light on another silenced woman’s story, leaving the audience educated and thoroughly entertained.

 

Reviewed by Liz Davis

 


Tokyo Rose

Underbelly Cowgate until 25th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019

 

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com