THE NAKED GAY PLAY
by David Bell.
Above the Stage Theatre Arch 17 Miles Street Vauxhall SW8 1 RZ To 16 February 2014.
Tue–Sat 7.30 pm Sun 6pm.
Runs 2 hr One interval.
Review: William Russell 21 January.
Great play, rotten title.
The Above the Stag Company, rendered homeless when the Stag pub in Victoria was demolished, has found a new home in a well-equipped Vauxhall railway arch. This splendid satire about actors and the lengths they go in the name of their art is its second production there.
The play, hilarious, bitchy and very well performed, tells how The Integrity Players, an off-Broadway company devoted to performing forgotten English classics which secure good reviews but fail to get an audience, is saved after the director’s wealthy mother-in-law stops bankrolling them.
The leading man, a closet gay, goes on a bender and ends-up with the director of a gay theatre company dedicated to putting on works about naked boys doing things. He needs a venue and along with his gay set and costume designers takes over the Integrity Players to stage a new money-making show, a gay version of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ with male porn star Kit Swagger.
Chaos ensues to comic effect as the pretensions of actors are sent up, the dreams of porn stars who want to act are explored, and Dan, the high-faluttin’ director of the Integrity Players learns there is more to life in the theatre than forgotten plays by long-dead British playwrights.
There are lots of good theatrical jokes and a lovely riff in which one queen announces he has seen Eileen Atkins tap-dancing for dimes outside the subway. He is asked – “Are you sure?” “Yes,” is the reply, “unless it was Angela Lansbury.” Like all good jokes it has a slight basis in fact; Dame Eileen was a teenage hoofer.
Director Andrew Becket keeps things moving briskly and there is a stunning, rather touching performance from Matthew Ferdenzi as the porn hunk. He not only looks the part, he creates a believable guy who has dreams of something better than life in adult videos.
Ellen Verenieks as the rich mom – she comes from Vegas, not London, but has been overdosing on Downton – is a delight. But all the playing is spot-on. The title may be a turnoff, but the play’s a pleasure.
Kit Swagger: Matthew Ferdenzi.
Dan: Alexander Hulme.
Amanda: Stacy Sobieski.
Harold J Lichtenberger: Lucas Livesey.
Mrs Anderson: Ellen Verenieks.
Eddie Russini: Christopher Woodley.
T. Scott: Robert Hannouch.
Edonis: Toby Joyce.
Director: Andrew Beckett.
Designer/Costume: David Shields.
Lighting: Elliot Griggs.
Projections: Maximilien Spielbichler.