by Boy George and Mark Davies Markham.
Brixton Club House 467-469 Brixton Road SW9N 8HL To 23 December 2012.
Tue–Sun 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: William Russell 12 September.
Drugs, drag, and decadence.
The strength of this revival of a musical about London in the 1980s and the arrival of Culture Club and Boy George on the music scene lies in the performances and the songs. The book is a mess, with the focus shifting from one grotesque character to another so that it lacks a centre and people, including Boy George, vanish for no good reason every now and then.
The plot is simple. Billy (the personable Alistair Brammer), a nice virgin boy from the sticks who longs to be a photographer, comes to London and ends up in a world of drag, decadence, drugs and rock and roll, living in a lodging house ruled over by the cross-dressing Philip Sallon – Paul Baker, who took the role in the original 2003 London production – with tremendous verve. He has lost none of that verve and was not even phased by the presence of the real Sallon in the audience wearing a nappy, an off the shoulder bodice, a string of pearls and no shoes.
Sarah Ingram as Josie, Billy’s Mum, gets some power-ballads to sing and belts them out brilliantly, while Matthew Rowland as George is the Boy to the manner born.
But one really doesn’t care whether Billy will come out of the closet, stick to his girlfriend Kim (Niamh Perry), or settle for George, who, because Billy spurns him, takes to drugs. It beggars belief that when push came to shove Billy succumbs to the grossly fat transvestite artist and designer Leigh Bowery (Sam Buttery), who vies with Sallon to be Queen Bee.
While the louche pop scene of the time is well caught – the tacky Club House makes an ideal setting – it is all rather dated and not at all shocking by today’s standards. There is, however, no denying it is done with tremendous zest by the entire cast who keep it afloat – just. And the songs are really terrific.
Philip Sallon: Paul Baker.
Billy: Alistair Brammer.
Josie: Sarah Ingram.
Derek, Petal and Lucien Freud: Michael Matus.
Kim: Niamh Perry.
Boy George: Matthew Rowland.
Steve Strange: Owain Williams.
Janey: Daniella Bowen.
Marilyn: Adam Bailey.
Leigh Bowery: Sam Buttery.
Big Sue: Katie Kerr.
Ensemble: Zeph Gould, Alex Hammond, Jennifer Hepburn.
Director: Christopher Renshaw.
Lighting: Howard Hudson.
Sound: Graham Simpson for Thames Audio Ltd.
Musical Director: Matt Smith.
Choreographer: Frank Thompson.
Costume: Mike Nicholls.
Hair/Makeup: Christine Bateman.
Wigs: Atelier Sjoerd Didden.
Fight director: Jude Poyer.
Dance & Fight Captain: Zeph Gould.