Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Naked Boys F***ing on Dreamboats

Is it a good idea to cram 3 shows into a day? Probably not, when the first show starts at 4pm and the first drink starts 15 minutes before that...and continues in that vein till midnight! My head throbs at the memory...

However! Being all heroic and brave, we embarked on this task with vigour and enthusiasm. Let it be known we never shirk our duties.

Our first show of the day was the matinee of Dreamboats and Petticoats, a jukebox musical with the barest glimmer of a plot. But you know what? Sometimes you think, Mama Mia! The sun's shining, you've had a drink and all you want is a show that Will Rock You, strong characterisation and dramatic tension be damned. This is a feelgood show and what I liked about it was it didn't have any pretensions to be anything other than that. It truly does what it says on the tin.

A jukebox musical packed with 60s choons, it's colourful, loud and the young cast has enough energy to light up Blackpool. it features Scott Bruton ('im off the telly from X Factor) and apparently 2 actors from Hollyoaks and Emmerdale, both of which I'm clueless about. The star though, was Daisy Wood Davis, making her West End debut as the meek geek Lucy. What a voice! Especially on mawkish ballads like Who's Sorry Now, imbuing them with a resonance that belied the subject matter.

The plot, which involves a youth club, a song writing competition and teenage angst and horniness, serves as a series of song cues and for me, the most fun was had watching the reactions of the *ahem* mature audience. Next to me were 4 nurses who relieved their childhoods through every sha-la-la-la and woh-oh-oh-oh. Sample:

Story: Character introduced as Bobby
Nurse 1: "Oooh, they're going to do Bobby's Girl!"
Story: Character introduced as Sue
Nurse 2: "Eeks! I love Runaway Sue!"
Story: Character shows a Dansette record player to granddaughter
Nurse 1: "I had one in school!"
Story: Character introduced as Laura
Nurses 1 to 4: "Tell Laura I Love Her..."
And so on.

It really was the show that kept on giving - entertainment from the front, the side, behind...the slow songs produced waving hands and the uptempo numbers made everyone sing along. I'm thankful my best friend works in the theatre, so I often get to see the productions here ex gratis. I don't think I would've been very happy if I had paid full price and had to listen to multiple warblings in surround sound. But hey, it was their party and they can sing if they want to.

PS. I tried to palm off some of my wine to Best Friend who was selling the ice creams. He was too professional to drink any, of course. We've agreed next time I'll hide the wine in a Mc D's cup complete with straw.

So, drink 1, show 1 over, we set off to a bar on Old Compton Street where another friend works . Drink 2 was duly despatched and we were off to...

Whilst I was intrigued by the 3rd production of the night (below), I didn't have any strong feelings about this one. Partly because it's a play and partly I wasn't sure I wanted to listen to gay "issues" on stage. But the offer of £5.00 for a double bill was an offer too good to resist (as Oscar Wilde once said, "I can resist everything but temptation.").

Whilst not having the slightest inkling of what the plot was about, I certainly wasn't expecting what the play turned out to be: insightful, poignant, funny, moving. Revolving around 10 gay men in New York, writer Joe DiPietro dissects the modern gay man's experience and reveals the emotional (and sometimes monetary) negotiations and trade offs we regularly undertake and make in our various encounters.

There is the soldier in denial who bashes the escort who trades near the barracks, the porn tart with a heart, the married Hollywood A-lister in the closet, the obnoxious student who sexually blackmails his tutor...each trying to find that connection, however fleeting, in a world that can seem devoid of intimacy and kindness. It's something we can all identify with, and this piece certainly makes us acknowledge that.

When we finally arrive back to where we started from, the escort's confession of why he's staying with the soldier brought this round of couplings to a sweet, sad and satisfying conclusion. Kudos to the actors and recommended for all adults, gay or straight.

So, loud applause and an interval before the next show:

Before that, another drink! Can I say to the Arts Theatre, that young bartender in the downstairs bar (named the London Cocktail Club) is a credit to you...he is friendly, he takes 3 orders at a time, and drinks are despatched promptly and politely. By far the best bartender in any theatre (or indeed, West End) bar. Shame about the toilets.

Anyhoo, if F***ing Men was a steak with potatoes, then Naked Boys Singing was a fluffy, insubstantial souffle. It's A Chorus Line with penises - our group of intrepid actors auditioning for a nude revue. Cue songs on the male physique, and soaring arias like "I Beat My Meat". I'm kidding, it wasn't an aria.

Surprisingly, the nudity only occurs about 2/3s into the show and by the time they whip their towels off, you kind of giggle once and it becomes incidental - such is the energy and talent of this cast. All the more remarkable when you see some of the actors were from the previous play. I was actually more fascinated at how their muscles moved as dancers.

It's fun, it's energetic and whilst I can't remember a single tune, I know that I enjoyed it trememdously in these increasingly humourless credit-crunched times.

And guess what? We retired to our regular bar (called the Mothership because we always end up back there) where Best Friend had finished at Dreamboats and polished off more "grape juice". That's what I call a good ending.

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