Saturday, 14 May 2022

Stage: Fun in the sun

Alright Bitches
by Martin Blackburn
dir Bryan Hodgson
with Daniel Breakwell, Marcus J Foreman, Josiah Eloi, Wilson Armour, Jackie Pulford
sets and costumes David Shields
lighting Joseph Ed Thomas
Above the Stag Theatre, Vauxhall • 11.May-4.Jun.22

A witty bit of fun to kick off the summer, this goofy comedy amusingly riffs on a range of gay stereotypes as it tells a story that's surprisingly warm. It's not riotously hilarious, but the story is enjoyably silly, and the characters are likeable, with each getting a number of jaggedly witty punchlines along the way. And while it's also never as sexy as it really should be, at least there's plenty of filthy innuendo to fuel the farcical atmosphere.

At the fading gay resort Los Hombres in Playa del Ingles, Gran Canaria, birthday boy Garth (Breakwell) is on the prowl for shallow sex, while his best friend Max (Eloi) looks for something marginally more meaningful. Their older gal-pal Pam (Pulford) is also on hand, hoping to kickstart her romantic life. Then a couple arrives in the bungalow next door: Ollie (Foreman) and. Ollie just wants some sunshine and relaxation after a serious past few months, while his older boyfriend Jason (Armour) finds it hard to imagine a holiday without any cultural value at all.

Over the course of the week, these five characters mix together for a range of activities that force them to work out what they want to do with their lives. Each of these people is at a crossroads, so various actions push them to make big decisions, with a couple of illicit kisses and plenty of comical messiness along the way. And a sideplot involving a reclusive man in the next cabin adds a rather forceful point later on. Clearly playwright Blackburn has more on his mind than laughs here, which helps make the play engaging and satisfying. But the show would benefit from naughtier shenanigans and a more consistently high-spirited tone.

The actors deliver performances that are deliberately heightened for comical value, complete with some very silly accents, although they never tip over into caricature. At the start, these people seems to be little more than gay scene cliches, but as the story continues they deepen into more complex individuals. Each one might still be vaguely ridiculous, but he or she wins us over by being so recognisable. Each has a chance to stand out, but it's Pulford's Pam who both brings the party and makes the most razor-sharp observations. And Eloi gets the best amusing scene-stealing moments as the sarcastic Max.

As always, the team at Above the Stag outdoes itself when it comes to the set, which recreates a beach resort with terrific detail. And while the show is perhaps over-punctuated by voiceovers from a tour guide and cleverly lit cutaways to club nights and other events, these transitions are sharply well-staged to put the audience right in the splash zone. Essentially, this show is like one of those over-wrought tropical fruit cocktails: it goes down very easily, lightens the mood and gives us a boost. 

For information, visit ABOVE THE STAG >

photos by PBGstudios • 13.May.22

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