Joe DiPietro’s F**king Men first played at the King’s Head in 2009 and has been something of a staple show on the fringe scene in London since. It’s no wonder; DiPietro’s dialogue really shines in its pace and wit, even whilst dealing with difficult issues from HIV to closeted sexuality. Rarely do you hear an audience roar with laughter as they did at this, myself included. Occasionally moving and always incisive, the dialogue never preaches or wallows. It is refreshing, when so many plays about sexuality deal with shame and suffering, to see a play that brims with adrenaline and queer joy. Following a cast of recurring characters across ten sexual encounters, there is never a sense that the characters should be ashamed of their sexuality or promiscuity. As one character insists on reiterating – it’s just another way of connecting. Quoting Forster, as that character does so often, only connect.
The play has clearly undergone some updates since 2009; an interview with DiPietro in the programme makes clear that director Steven Kunis helped to update the show for a modern audience, as seen in the use of hook-up apps and the pitfalls of shared cloud software. Adding to the modern feel, Kunis’s vision is almost cinematic in his use of rectangular screens, changing from transparent to opaque to provide an equivalent to television’s split-screen effect. Designer Cara Evans has done a sterling job with this set, which is minimalist in props but delineates those encounters with precision, using silhouettes to enhance both moments of intimacy and violence.
The difficulty with a play structured as a series of vignettes is that it lacks momentum, and at its weakest points this play feels a little like a list – we know who the final interaction would be with (the first character, cementing the play’s circularity), and we can’t help but wait for him in lieu of a resolution to anticipate. A cast of four rotates through many characters, alternating accents and physicalities to help delineate them. In places, a little more variety would have been nice, but most of the characters are clearly drawn, and though sometimes caricaturish, always recognisable. Special praise must go to Derek Mitchell’s pretentious author, who had the audience rolling in the aisles with his inane verbosity.
Without trivialising any of the issues it presents, F**king Men manages to be riotous, and an utter joy to watch. It reminds one of the wide and varied worlds of queerness in the variety of its characters and takes real pleasure from that. Rightly so; this play is unapologetic in its queerness and deserves every bit of its reputation.
The infamous Sh!t Faced Showtime are back in London with a festive edition, they have taken Dickens’ classic and put a drunken spin on it. The formula is the same as other iterations of the Shi!t Faced shows, one member of the cast has been boozing, and this time it is John Milton who plays Scrooge. Before the show, half a bottle of Jim Beam, some wine, and beer have been consumed in the previous 4 hours. The rest of the cast, try to keep the show on track, also aided by James Murfitt as the compere, Charles Dickens. The … More A PISSEDMAS CAROL – REVIEW – LEICESTER SQUARE
Spine-tingling yet heart-warming, Mark Gatiss’s retelling of A Christmas Carol truly encapsulates the haunting atmosphere of a Victorian ghost story, balanced out with enough humour so as to capture the festive season. Led by Keith Allen as Scrooge, with Peter Forbes as Marley, this show is perfect for Christmas viewing. The set design by Paul Wills is instantly captivating, containing stacks of metal cabinets towering over the theatre, moveable by the cast to allow space for other central props like doors, beds and tables. In addition to this, the puppetry design by Matthew Forbes is incredibly clever, adding creepy elements to the show such … More A CHRISTMAS CAROL – REVIEW – ALEXANDRA PALACE
The title of this winner of Theatre 503’s 2023 International Playwriting Award by Roxy Cook may seem like the set-up to a joke, but the narrative that unspools is instead an affectionate, gently barbed and at base quite sobering portrait of three ordinary souls (and one restless feline) adrift in modern Moscow. There is much affable, satirical back-and-forth commentary on the accepted myths & stereotypes of the Russian spirit & soul. Beset by the indignities of age, opportunism, graft, fatigue, the characters orbit one another, doomed to play out their roles in an unjust, predatory and saturnine universe. The play opens … More A WOMAN WALKS INTO A BANK – REVIEW – THEATRE503
Peter Pan Goes Wrong first premiered in London at the Pleasance Theatre in 2013, and earlier this year the show made its Broadway debut. Now the production is back in the West End for the Christmas season. Following on from The Play That Goes Wrong, in this production, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is staged by the fictitious Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society and goes awry, disastrously so. The meta-comedy is filled with slapstick comedy, sometimes the humour may be predictable and silly, but it’s universally funny throughout – there is something for everyone here, and the laughs come thick and fast … More PETER PAN GOES WRONG – REVIEW – LYRIC THEATRE
Drawing heavily from the classic canon of the British supernatural, HighTide’s trio of contemporary Gothic narratives uses traditional storytelling formats to address contemporary themes. Directed by Elayce Ismail, reverent musical interludes accompany tales of apparitions and nighttime conjurings that speak of women from the East of England. Unfortunately, the effect is less chilling and more lightweight, with conventional structures, predictable plot twists and an over-reliance on external forces to drive narrative shoring up some of the less relatable aspects of the genre. Nicola Werenowska’s The Beach House, perhaps the cleanest of the three tales, tells of a mother and daughter’s … More GHOST STORIES BY CANDLELIGHT – REVIEW – SAM WANAMAKER PLAYHOUSE