22nd Sep2017

Holding the Man (Theatre)

by timbaros

stag watermark holding the man4“Holding the Man” is a show that will rip your heart out and reduce you to tears.

Now playing at Above the Stag Theatre in Vauxhall, it’s true story of two Australian men, Timothy Conigrave and John Caleo, who fall in love in the late 1970’s, who have their ups and downs during the 1980’s, and who both are diagnosed with the HIV virus and must deal with not only death knocking on their door but also the shortened time they have to be together. The show is based on the 1995 book by Conigrave, and was written by Tommy Murphy. Most of you might have already seen the excellent 2015 film, or previous London productions (including the 2010 production at Trafalgar Studios). The Above the Stage production is just as hard-hitting.

It’s the storytelling and the extremely strong performances of the cast at the Above the Stag that rate this production five stars. Jamie Barnard is excellent as Conigrave while Ben Boskovic as Caleo eerily captures his quietness and reserve. Both actors bring to this production a strength and resolute to their roles that they are almost living out these characters lives right in front of us. From the beginning of the show, we can feel that these two men were meant to be together. But this being the early 80’s, not much was known about HIV, so unfortunately, and I’m not giving anything away here because it’s a well-known story, AIDS was to rear it’s ugly head directly at these two young, beautiful men.

“Holding the Man” takes us on a heart stopping and heartbreaking journey while we travel with them in their relationship with each other in life, and in death. And it’s Barnard and Boskovic who take us on this remarkable journey. Joshua Cole as a best friend of the two men provide welcome comic relief in a show that’s very serious: he’s charming and has the best lines in the play. Faye Wilson adds some much needed sparkle as another one of the boys friends, while Liam Burke, Annabel Pemberton, and Robert Thompson round out the ensemble in various roles as parents, friends and fellow students. One scene that includes the whole cast is a hilarious masturbation scene that’s cleverly done and something I’ve never seen on stage before.

But’s is the relationship between these two men that is at the heart and soul of this show. Director Gene David Kirk keeps the drama up and running while designer David Shields provides an excellent minimalist backdrop so the audience can focus on the story, and acting, unfolding right before our very eyes..Kudos to Above the Stag Theatre for producing a serious, dramatic and extremely well-acted show that’s a welcome relief from their previous camp and silly previous productions. Categorise “Holding the Man” as a must see!

For tickets, please go to:

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19th Sep2017

Five Guys Named Moe (Theatre)

by timbaros

Five Guys Named Moe

There’s a new theatre in town, it’s fabulous, and the show now playing at this theatre is fabulous as well.

The Marble Arch Theatre, which is an Underbelly production (the team that brings us the excellent shows in the Southbank), is cleverly located right next to the arch in Marble Arch, is the newest theatre to pop up in London. It’s a gorgeous 650 seater wooden structure that includes a very large bar and an auditorium with a stage that is semi-circle in the round, a design that reflects the 1940’s New Orleans Jazz bars. And theatregoers will be able to take their seats at the cabaret tables in the Funky Butt Club and have drinks served directly to their tables for an up-close and personal musical experience all around them. And the show at this new theatre is “Five Guys Named Moe,” which is a show about Five Guys Named Moe (Big, Little, Eat, Know and Four-Eyed) who give guidance, advise and support to Nomax, who is single, broke and lamenting about a broken relationship with a woman named Lorraine. The Moes sing and dance their way throughout this two hour very lively extravaganza, while Nomax (played by Edward Baruwa) takes it all in. Songs, featuring the hits of original jazz king Louis Jordan, include “Early in the Morning,” “I Like ‘em Like That,” “Safe, Sane and Single,” and “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” are sung by the Moes in such a fun and unique style. And there is also quite a bit of audience participation. One member of the audience who was chosen to recite some sentences on the night I saw it, and it was none other than stage and movie star Freddie Fox. The Audience also gets to outdo each other, with the help of the Moes, in a sing-a-long that provides raucous laughter. It’s the oldest trick in the book to include the audience in the show to make sure they are having a great time, and the Moes use it to their advantage.

“Five Guys Named Moe” is based on a musical of the same name by Jordan in 1943, and has been around since it’s 1990 UK debut (and a 2010 UK revival). With a book by Clarke Peters, if feels like this show has never left London. But if you’ve already seen it, seeing it again at the new Marble Arch Theatre will be a whole new experience, and perhaps more of an enjoyable one in a setting that matches the fun and frivolity of the show. Kudos to all the Moes who make it a fun night out (Ian Carlyle, Idriss Kargbo, Dex Lee, Horace Oliver and Emile Ruddock) and to Underbelly for copying their successful formula to Marble Arch, and to the production team for pulling it off and producing one big party.

They’ve just announced that “Five Guys Named Moe” has been extended to 17 February 2018 due to overwhelmingly popular demand. Tickets are on sale now, get yours here:
https://www.fiveguysmusical.com

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17th Sep2017

Footloose (Theatre)

by timbaros

Kevin Bacon became a worldwide star in the 1984 hit film. And while there have been lots of stage versions produced after this, “Footloose,” no matter how many times you’ve seen it or have hummed the title song, will always bring a smile to your face.

Footloose-6-1024x683-1Another revival, now at the Peacock Theatre near Aldwych, and arriving into London right after a UK tour, keeps the toe tapping alive with the show about a small town that has banned dancing, and the young out-of-towner who plans to shake things up.

Rem McCormack (Joshua Dowen) and his mom Ethel (Lindsay Goodhand) move from their hometown in Chicago to the very small town of Bomont after Rem’s father left the family home to go ‘find himself.’ Rem integrates into his new school, filled with all sorts of people (though none of them, curiously, are black). His fellow students include Willard (Gareth Gates, who gets star billing) and the minister’s daughter Ariel (Hannah Price). It comes to light that the powerful minister, the Reverend Shaw (Reuven Gershon), has banned dancing in town because five years ago his young son and three others were killed in a car crash, no doubt, according to the minister, caused by the kid’s night out of having too much fun and possibly drinking.

But Rem wants to have fun, but at the same time can’t seem to hold down a job due to his motto of trying to do the right thing, and he’s gotten off on the wrong foot with Ariel’s boyfriend Chuck (Connor Going – who strangely disappears during the middle of the show but returns for the finale). The other kids end up getting Rem to speak up for them at the city council meeting to denounce the dancing ban while it’s no surprise that Rem and Ariel have the hots for each other. It’s lots of loose feet, catchy tunes, a hot and sexy cast and way too many crotch jokes that make this version of “Footloose” a slight winner.

The music and the talented cast make the show very entertaining, but the show as a whole could be better. While all the film’s hits are included (“Footloose” of course, “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” as well as “Holding Out for a Hero”), with some of the arrangements of these songs a bit different that what we’re used to, some of the other songs make a very big thud, including the dismal “Heaven Help Me” sung by Gershon. However, “Somebody’s Eyes” is beautifully sung by most of the cast in a very memorable scene. So while there are more ups then downs, the cast at the end of show work very very hard to get their standing ovation, practically repeating, in very shortened versions, almost every catchy and lively song from the show. And even though Gates gets top billing (and he even takes his top off to reveal an absolutely stunning body), both Dowen and Price are the true stars of the show. Their chemistry on stage is very real – both very good looking with all-American looks. Director Racky Plews and Choreographer Matthew Cole have, almost, done Kevin Bacon proud.

For tickets to Footloose, please go here:

http://footloose-musical.com

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13th Sep2017

Outlaws to In-Laws (Theatre)

by timbaros

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London is very fortunate to have a theatre like the King’s Head because of it’s repertoire of gay-themed shows. And now it’s in the middle of presenting it’s Queer Festival ’17 with the showcase of a new play called “Outlaws to In-Laws.”

“Outlaws to In-Laws” attempts, successfully, to depict the experiences of gay men over the last seven decades. And while it’s a subject that would be daunting for any theatre, or playwright, involved, the seven playwrights who wrote the seven shows that cover seven decades of gay life do their darndest to both entertain and educate the audience. Here are some of the highlights:

Happy and Glorious – by Philip Meeks – is set in the 1950’s on the day of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation where two men fall into a tryst and both their lives change forever.

Mister Tuesday – by Jonathan Harvey (Beautiful Thing) – Peter and Jimmy have sex, on Tuesdays, but we soon realize that Jimmy is married with children while Peter threatens to blackmail him just so that he can keep the trysts, and possibly more, ongoing.

Reward – by Jonathan Harvey – a riveting story where a rough and tough skinhead and a young black man meet at a bus stop and fall into a relationship, but it’s illicit one where both of them could be in real danger. Both actors, Jack Bence and Michael Duke, are excellent.

1984 – by Patrick Wilde – where two men have an encounter, and one of them, a politico for Thatcher, realizes that all that he stands for is soon to change.

Brothas – by Topher Campbell – where two black men, Dwayne and Remi, have fun cruising on a black dating sight, slighting the unactrative ones while favoring the more ‘looking and acting straight’ ones. But it’s Dwayne whose in it for more than just the sex.

While most of the stories are very good, what is best about this production are the performances. All seven actors give it their best, but it’s a few of them who really stand out. Bence, as previously mentioned, is highly memorable as the skinhead in Reward and as Peter in Mister Tuesday – both roles require high stakes drama and passion, and Bence delivers, while both Myles Devonté and Duke look very comfortable in their roles in Brothas – they are both naturals in front of the audience.

“Outlaws to Inlaws” is two hours of theatre that, while a bit cobbled together, is still a very good journey that takes us from decade to decade of gay life linked together very cleverly and showcasing the talent of the playwrights and especially the actors.

“Outlaws to In-Laws” is playing at The King’s Head Theatre until September 23. For tickets, please go here:

https://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873574190/events/128193066

For details of their other gay production, “Gypsy Queen,” please go here:

https://kingsheadtheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873576764

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02nd Sep2017

God’s Own Country (Film)

by timbaros

image.php-138In 2005 there was Brokeback Mountain, and in 2017 there is now “God’s Own Country.”

Being referred to as a West Yorkshire Brokeback Mountain, “God’s Own Country” tells the story of a young farmer who works on the family farm and has casual sex with some of the local boys. But when a Romanian migrant worker shows up to help him out on the farm, their working relationship turns into more than just work, changing both their lives. Shot against the beautiful backdrop that is Yorkshire, “God’s Own Country” is definitely this year’s hottest and most mainstream gay film. Director and writer Francis Lee, in his feature length directorial debut (he has acting credits that go back to 1994), has crafted a gay romance set on a farm, a romance that, when it gets lit, is explosive.

Josh O’Connor is fantastic as Johnny Saxby, a young man who thinks he has only one purpose in life – the farm. He lives in a house on top of a hill with his grandmother (Gemma Jones) and sick father (Ian Hart). But as his father is unable to participate in the hard daily chores, Romanian immigrant, and ruggedly handsome, Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) arrives, and with his arrival comes the romance that we know is going to happen. I didn’t find “God’s Own Country’ a perfect film, Johnny and Gheorghe’s first stab at having sex, outdoors, right in the middle of the farm, was a bit unbelievable (and it looked cold). And Johnny’s habit of taking presumably straight men into his local pub toilets for sex (that would be every gay man’s fantasy – no?) is far-fetched. But “God’s Own Country” is beautiful, complex and engaging, and it doesn’t hurt that we get to see both O’Connor and Secareanu naked. “God’s Own Country” has already won several awards, including Best Film at both the Berlin and Edinburgh International Film Festivals as well as the World Cinema Directing Award at Sundance. And it’s gotten rave reviews, with some critics calling it “The British Brokeback Mountain,” but better.

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02nd Sep2017

Patti Cake$ (Film)

by timbaros

Can a white overweight girl from New Jersey become a rap star? You bet – and her name is “Patti Cake$”.

Danielle Macdonald plays Patricia Dombrowski, an unemployed 23-year-old who has been given the nickname ‘dumbo’ by her contemporaries. There’s very little opportunity for her; she’s been fired from her most recent job, her mom is an alcoholic, her grandmother is confined to a wheelchair, and she’s a dreamer about hitting the big time. But when she gets together with her friends, including pharmacist Jheri (Siddarth Dhananjay), she’s no longer just plain Patricia, she’s Patti Cake$. And when an opportunity arises for them to enter a rap contest, Patti has doubts, not only because the competition will be fierce, but also because she lacks the confidence which she never got from her own mother (Bridget Everett), who is always trying to show her up. But where there’s a will there’s a way, and Patti and her gang (now called PBNJ) must prove that they’ve got what it takes. And this makes Patti Cake$ a sweet and engrossing tale of a misfit girl who can and will make it.

Australian Danielle Macdonald is superb as Patti Cake$. She nails it as the rough around the edges but very soft to the core Patti who will have the audience in her corner. Everett also has a showy role as Patti’s mother, always trying to look good for potential male suitors. New Jersey native and music video director Geremy Jasper showcases the real New Jersey in this film and brings us a sweet tale of a girl who has larger than life dreams and tries to make them happen.

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