Call Me Vicky
Reviewed – 21st February 2019
“this is a piece that deals with themes that have enduring relevance”
Call Me Vicky is sister duo Nicola and Stacey Bland’s debut play, set in the 1980s and following Vicky as she transitions from male to female. As well as being the brains behind the script, based entirely on a true story, the sisters perform in the show. We may now live in an arguably more understanding society compared to the 1980s, but this is a piece that deals with themes that have enduring relevance.
Much of the play is set in The Golden Girl drag club and as the audience enters the performance space, they are stamped to replicate entering a real club. The set (designed by Martha Hegarty) conforms to this well, with some audience members able to sit at tables on the edge of the stage, which are scattered with drinks glasses and leaflets. The intimate size of the performance space, as well as neon signs, adds to the club-like feel.
Family and friendship is at the heart of the play. Vicky (Matt Greenwood) and Mum, Sylvie (Wendi Peters), clearly share a close bond, with Sylvie’s concern for Vicky as she goes off out to the club with best friend Debbie (Nicola Bland) clearly displayed. The relationship between Vicky and Debbie is lovely to watch. They share banter, but also great care for one another, which is demonstrated particularly well during the play’s final scene.
Other characters include club waitress Gabby (Stacey Bland), club host Fat Pearl (Ben Welch) and Vicky’s love interest Sid (Adam Young). Stacey Bland’s Gabby is a likeable character and is easy to sympathise with in her struggles with drug addiction and motherhood. Ben Welch is entertaining as Fat Pearl, providing much of the play’s comedy. He has another minor role as an undercover policeman towards the end of the play, where he is really able to show his versatility in a hard-hitting scene with Matt Greenwood’s Vicky. Adam Young surprises as Sid. His punk-style costume suggests something quite different from the sympathetic, gentle character he goes on the play.
From an audience perspective, the play is best viewed facing straight on, with those of us sitting at the sides sometimes missing actors’ facial expressions and parts of their lines, due to them being blocked by their fellow actors. This was a minor annoyance and something to be considered, most notably in the more moving scenes of the play.
Directed by Victoria Gimby, Call Me Vicky is indeed a frank and revealing play. We gain a deeply personal insight into the life of somebody who wants to become the person they know themselves to truly be. This is made even more poignant through the knowledge the play is based on a true story. Although there are a few issues in terms of the set-up of the audience, this is an important piece of theatre, celebrating diversity and highlighting what it can take to stay true to ourselves.
Reviewed by Emily K Neal
Photography by Fabio Santos
Call Me Vicky
Pleasance Theatre until 9th March
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Brighton Theatre Royal & Touring
Reviewed – 5th September 2018
“As absurd plots go, Salad Days’ story is hard to beat”
‘In 1954, the Old Vic’s artistic director Denis Carey gave Julian [Slade] and Dorothy [Reynolds] just one month to write a summer show – words, music, everything. They did it.’ So writes Adrian Slade in the programme notes for this production, and it is a helpful introduction – placing us firmly in the period, and providing a clue as to the origins of this utterly bonkers musical confection.
As absurd plots go, Salad Days’ story is hard to beat: a young couple find themselves the guardians of a magical piano which bewitches people into dancing in public; the piano goes missing and a flying saucer appears to help track it down. This is clearly not a musical that takes itself very seriously, and yet the audience requires a level of sincerity in the production, particularly in 2018, to keep the show from becoming a dusty and risible period piece. It is a hard balance to strike, and one which Regan de Wynter’s production – initially at the Union Theatre in London and now at Brighton’s Theatre Royal ahead of a UK tour – generally maintains. For the most part, the show zips along with a great deal of effervescence and charm, and laughs are in plentiful supply. The comedy works best however, when it bubbles up from the pure silliness of the plot, or springs from the deft handling of physical business – special mention here to the marvellous hairdressers scene, expertly played by Wendi Peters. The scenes which rely heavily on running gags are less successful; these are the awkward interludes in which the show’s 64 years weigh heavily.
The songs, although fun, lack the biting wit of Cole Porter or the inventive musicality of Arthur Sullivan, and the choreography is lively but unremarkable. The lighting design is similarly serviceable, and the production design lacks coherence, particularly in terms of period setting – some costumes clearly coming from the fifties, but others from the twenties and thirties. The success of this production is thus almost wholly down to its committed and energetic cast, which had to work doubly hard last night to combat some very obvious technical issues with sound quality. (As a side note, this reviewer is not convinced by the need to mike up performers in a space the size of the Theatre Royal. All the singers are clearly capable of filling the theatre vocally, unaided). Despite these setbacks, the showstoppers shine through, and there are some lovely lyrical moments too. Maeve Byrne lights up the stage with Asphynxia’s fabulous nightclub pastiche ‘Sand in my Eyes’, and Lewis McBean’s warm tenor is a delight throughout. Also noteworthy are the splendid comic characterisation and sparkling vocal quality of Francesca Pim, and the physical precision and geniality that Callum Evans brings to the mute Troppo.
Salad Days is pure nostalgia – theatrical candyfloss if you will – and Brighton’s beautiful regency Theatre Royal provides the perfect setting to jump on the carousel and indulge in a sugary treat.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Photography by Scott Rylander
Brighton Theatre Royal until 8th September then touring UK