Tag Archives: Robert Chevara

Sex / Crime

Sex / Crime

Soho Theatre

Reviewed – 22nd January 2020

★★★

 

“the energy on stage is palpable and infectious”

 

A PVC backdrop. Deep red sofa covered in plastic. A tray with two needles sitting poised for action. Banging music rings in your ears. The stage is set for a dark and disturbing evening that will question where pleasure ends and pain begins. A queer “American Psycho”? A messy murder mystery? The show in question is “Sex/Crime”, Alexis Gregory’s startlingly original new play returning to London at the Soho Theatre.

In thickly lyrical prose, “A” (Jonny Woo) and “B” (Gregory) meet in a mysterious room in a city in turmoil. Paying good money to have famous gay murders recreated on his body, “B” is prepared to be submissive, to give himself up to death and pleasure. “A”, offering him punches and slaps for a pre-arranged price, is clinical in his approach. But talk turns to “Him”, to the world outside, to love, to passion. “A”’s professional demeanour breaks down, and it isn’t long before the men’s roles take a surprising turn.

Woo gives an authoritative performance as “A”, his size bringing a unique presence to the low-ceilinged Upstairs theatre at Soho. Gregory is his ideal counterpart. Built with the shoulders of a bodybuilder, “B” is a high-pitched Londoner, almost camp, his movements precise and words even more so. Together, they make an excellent double act. The comedy rarely stops, and the references are topical. At one point Woo references EU regulations on breaks: “I’m holding on to those as long as I can” he notes, witheringly.

Directed by Robert Chevara, the two figures dance around each other, playing with distance and proximity with shocking effect. Movement is precise, pointed and poised. If things seem a little hyper-active, it matches the high octane, high adrenaline situation (not to mention all the drugs). Rocco Venna’s set leaves a strong impression in the imagination and Mike Robertson’s lighting design sees an almost clinical light beam up at the actors’ faces throughout. It’s certainly unsettling and gives those blackouts an added touch of menace.

The final third was where I started to wane, and the script seemed to lose a little bit of focus. What seemed grounded in a specific, yet unfamiliar, reality, falls away, making the final moments of twisting and turning a little less potent. Gorgeous as the finale of montages is, I wish it ended as punchy as it started.

This audience was in bits though, and hung on every moment. With strong leads and an even stronger sense of style, “Sex/Crime” is certainly an enjoyable spectacle. Dark comedy drips from the ceiling like PVC sheets and the energy on stage is palpable and infectious. As a new piece of writing, Gregory’s voice shines and is certainly one to keep an eye out for. “Riot Act” is still one of my favourite shows in recent years, and I can only wait with anticipation as to what original idea strikes Gregory next. In the meantime, do check out this explosive and surprising show while it’s here.

 

Reviewed by Robert Frisch

Photography by Matt Spike

 


Sex / Crime

Soho Theatre until 1st February

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Tumulus | ★★★★ | April 2019
William Andrews: Willy | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Does My Bomb Look Big In This? | ★★★★ | May 2019
Hotter | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Citysong | ★★★★ | June 2019
The View Upstairs | ★★★ | July 2019
It All | ★★★ | August 2019
The Starship Osiris | ★★★★★ | August 2019
What Girls Are Made Of | ★★★★ | September 2019
Fitter | ★★★★★ | December 2019

 

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Vincent River
★★★★

Trafalgar Studios

Vincent River

Vincent River

Trafalgar Studios

Reviewed – 21st May 2019

★★★★

 

“Mahy’s performance perfectly condenses an unstable and volatile mix of anger, vulnerability, belligerence and dependence”

 

Philip Ridley is a playwright whose finger is always on the pulse, and even though “Vincent River” was written at the birth of this century it has lost none of its punch. Unfortunately, this has as much to do with how slowly society changes as it does with the timeless quality of the writing. During the last five years, homophobic hate crime has reportedly been rising. What is seldom reported is the aftermath: the personal story that this play heart-breakingly throws into the spotlight.

Anita is in her new flat, having been forced to flee her previous home. A youth has wandered in through the door into her living room. He is Davey, wearing a black hoodie, a black eye and an even darker obsession with Anita whom he has been stalking for months; ever since Anita’s son, Vincent, was murdered by thugs in a disused railway station’s toilet. Over the next eighty minutes, these two characters fight to understand themselves and each other. Played out in real time the audience are drawn in so much that we feel like the third character in this drama.

The rhythm and melody of Ridley’s dialogue is a gift for the two actors, and under the assured direction of Robert Chevara, the pulse never wavers. Thomas Mahy plays Davey like a dangerous dog whose threat of menace and aggression can be swiftly curbed with a flash of Anita’s bared teeth. Mahy’s performance perfectly condenses an unstable and volatile mix of anger, vulnerability, belligerence and dependence. Yet the undoubted force that drives this piece is the charismatic Louise Jameson, with her matchlessly poignant portrayal of a mother suffering her worst nightmare. A naked study of grief for the loss of a son that is believable throughout. Her raw pain is the skeleton upon which she drapes cloaks of humour, scorn and even tenderness. We are riveted right up to the climax when she finally rips through her armour with a blood curdling howl.

Jameson and Mahy circle each other like wild cats on Nicolai Hart Hansen’s simple and effective set that conveys Anita’s new flat with just a sofa, some unpacked boxes and quite a few opened bottles of gin. But beneath the humdrum stillness of the surroundings runs the vicious undercurrent of Vincent’s murder. The overall effect is hypnotic and electrifying. This is one of Ridley’s more accessible scripts, rooted in reality rather than veering off into the surreal promiscuity or gothic gratuitousness he is known for. But it is no less provocative – in fact its naturalism strengthens the message. The honesty of these performers makes us question the honesty with which we lead our own lives. Truth hurts – but we need that pain in order to start the healing process.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Scott Rylander

 


Vincent River

Trafalgar Studios until 22nd June

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Silk Road | ★★★★ | August 2018
Dust | ★★★★★ | September 2018
A Guide for the Homesick | ★★★ | October 2018
Hot Gay Time Machine | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Coming Clean | ★★★★ | January 2019
Black Is The Color Of My Voice | ★★★ | February 2019
Soul Sessions | ★★★★ | February 2019
A Hundred Words For Snow | ★★★★★ | March 2019
Admissions | ★★★ | March 2019
Scary Bikers | ★★★★ | April 2019

 

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