“The candypop colours fizz and zing and feel alive with fun and possibility”
Since U Been Gone is an autobiographical piece, in which Teddy Lamb intertwines stories of personal grief and loss with their own ongoing journey of self-discovery and self-definition. Teddy tells the story, with a live underscore performed on the electric guitar by Nicol Parkinson – quietly resplendent in a fabulous silver frock – with whom they share a stage. Teddy is a charming and engaging performer, with a gentle touch, who establishes a sense of warm intimacy with the audience immediately. Their words are direct and honest – as this type of show demands – but are occasionally shot through with beautiful currents of unexpected poetry. They are also, at points, extremely funny. (Put it this way, no-one who sees this show will every hear Eminem’s Lose Yourself in the same way again!).
Pete Butler (Set Designer) and Zia Bergin-Holly (Lighting Designer) have made the show look gorgeous, with a palette reminiscent of a 1960s TV set. The candypop colours fizz and zing and feel alive with fun and possibility, which serves at different times as both emphasis and ironic counterpoint to the narrative. For the most part, Billy Barrett (Director), wisely lets Teddy tell us the story without too much directorial intervention, and the few more obviously choreographed moments are well-placed, helping to give the words extra pace and texture when they need it. The live underscore is wonderful throughout, and the occasional moments in which Nicol Parkinson subtly sashays into the story, with a perfectly timed twang of the guitar, are just sublime.
This show is more than an intimate audience with an engaging performer, however. Teddy Lamb’s cleverly crafted text shines a light on the difficulties that beset gender-queer people on a daily basis in our society. Our non-binary and trans brothers and sisters encounter hostility and aggression in every aspect of their lives almost continually, and it behoves us all to step up and do better. One of the things we can all start with is pronoun awareness. Early on in the show, Teddy explains that, unlike the ‘strong, soft, comfortable’ feeling the pronoun ‘they’ gives, ‘he’ ‘feels like wearing an uncomfortable beige suit’. Which begs the question: why should anyone feel uncomfortable in what they wear, when clothes should allow us to dance?
“All the necessary components are there … I could just do with a little more amazement and a little less explanation”
Shotgun Carousel’s reputation for outlandish and stunningly executed immersive events far precedes their current show, Red Palace. After last year’s outrageously decadent Divine Proportions, I was fully prepared for an evening of hedonistic debauchery, expertly implemented to lavish excess.
he concept (Laura Drake Chambers) is strong from the start, and all-encompassing: There is a prophesy known across the land that after a thousand days on the throne, the tyrant prince will come to a bloody end. But the prince has no intention of giving up his rule and instead he’s throwing a party on the very day this prophecy should come to pass. Dress code is “your best ball attire and a mask to match” ( don’t worry, you can borrow a mask at the box office). It really is very effective to walk in to a dimly lit room full of masked faces, even if you know most of those are your fellow audience members.
For those who decide to indulge, dinner is served before the main event in a gallery overlooking the hoi polloi. MasterChef semi-finalist Annie McKenzie has whipped up a true feast – I’ll be thinking about that sticky honey soda bread with whipped rosemary butter for days to come, and I only wish I’d snuck in some tupperware for a little more of that rich, crispy shallot tarte tatin.
Performances are promised throughout dinner, but instead we’re occasionally introduced to a character from the main show’s narrative who we’ll no doubt encounter again later in the evening. This is a little disappointing: A performance suggests something of a spectacle and instead we have a preview of a show we’re already signed up to see. The cast themselves are magnificently adorned (Maeve Black) in gothic glamour, and they each play their parts with impressive commitment, even when hassled by substandard audience banter.
The show itself, directed by Celine Lowenthal, takes over the majority of The Vaults, sending the audience sprawling across various nooks and crannies throughout the venue. Initially there’s a sense that we might wander casually from room to room, making discoveries for ourselves, but after the first, we’re shepherded from one spot to the other to observe various necessary parts of the evening’s main plot.
The aesthetics don’t disappoint. Every space has been lovingly crafted to create vastly different atmospheres in each: Snow (White), styled as Barbie Madonna, is throwing a very sad birthday party in her sickly pink boudoir; Gretel (of the famous brother and sister duo) hosts an illegal cabaret with bathtub gin to boot; Red (Riding Hood) hides in the dark, dank forest, plotting her revenge against the prince. But concepts aren’t quite taken to their fabulous potential so within reach. Instead there’s a slight amateur fiddliness to it all, causing a lag between the evening’s tent-pole performances, and slightly sapping the fun out of it as the audience shuffles from one room to the next.
All the necessary components are there: stunning designs, exquisite food, engrossing performances and a well thought out concept. I could just do with a little more amazement and a little less explanation. No need to continuously force feed us the plot, we just want to have a radically decadent unicorn of an evening. Whilst for most that would be too much to ask, it’s what we’ve come to expect from Shotgun Carousel, and on this occasion they’ve just missed the mark.