Monthly Archives: April 2010

Gifted, at the White Bear Theatre

who needs change when you can have a kiss

One of the joys of watching fringe theatre is that it often tackles controversial issues in a way that larger institutions maybe more afraid of. In director Chris Loveless’ Gifted, however, this is not the case; every possible issue from domestic violence to homosexuality is crammed into seventy minutes. It is a classic case of how less is more.

The play tells the story of Fran who is an A Level student with hopes of going to Cambridge. She strikes up an unlikely relationship with Norman, an elderly homeless man, and tells him “you’re the first person to tell me the truth about things.” As her father is an arms dealer and Norman is a Falklands war veteran she gradually hates her father and falls in love with Norman.

If writer Peter Billingham had decided to simply handle how different generations viewed war, especially before a General Election, he would have succeeded at delivering a succinct message. Instead school bullying, mental illness, and alcohol abuse are added in weighing down the story.

A finer point comes when Fran and her school friend Mocha revise William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. “Plays take you somewhere, they release you” remarks Fran, who in turn writes her own poetry. Fran’s speech echoes Juliet’s, which is effective because they both are young, planning to run away, and hate their parents. So when Fran says “how can I respect what I despise”, it is akin to when Juliet says “my only love sprung from my only hate.”

An outstanding performance comes from Matthew Ward as Norman, who, on an evening with only five audience members, was able to fill the theatre with singing as a drunk hobo as well as emotion as a lonely old man. Touching performances lost on a muddled play.

Runs till 16 May.

To see or not to see: * *


Porn, the Musical, at the Theatre 503

is that a dildo in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

It’s a poignant moment in the play, Jade is declaring her undying love to Stefan, and she suddenly breaks into song only to sing “like herpes I will stick to you.” Porn, the Musical is no ordinary musical. Director Paul Robinson and writer Malcolm Galea’s satirical work is inspired by the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Monty Python, it’s full of sexual innuendos, dressing-up, and of course undressing. If you are after a critique of porn then this is not for you. If however you are after entertainment amongst an audience laughing loudly, even on the verge of tears, then this is most definitely for you.

It is the eve of Stefan’s marriage to his childhood sweetheart Jade, but in Python-esque style he finds out that she has slept with everyone in Malta. He heads to America with Candide-like naivety saying, “I’m going to be a famous carpenter like Harrison Ford or Jesus.” The American Dream (or nightmare here) is mocked. Images from Sesame Street to Charlie’s Angels are held up by the actors as Stefan heads to the land of opportunity, yet the moment he arrives he is mugged and enters a seedy world: the porn industry.

The play does not explore or take a stance on being pro or anti-porn, or even on the objectification of women. The posters display a woman’s behind in a thong, and the stage itself (designed by a female, Rachael Canning) has a model of a woman’s legs spread wide in fishnet stockings. For any criticisms one may have about the stereotypes of women as whore or victim, there are stereotypes of men that are equally, if not more, limiting: the doe-eyed Stefan who wants love, the Wayne’s World-like Dr Johnny Long who just thinks about sex, and the panto villain Martin Scoresleazy who wants to make his next porn film.

Everything is self-reflective and self-deprecating. Just as Sanddy sings “my name is Sanddy with a Double D”, Johnny sings in the song PHD “my degree hangs down to my knees.” And it’s actually the men who show more flesh, as leaves or umbrellas are held by women to cover male nudity.

Some of the songs maybe throwaway, some of the dance routines could be tighter, and a shortening of the work is certainly needed. Despite this the acting is exceptional, especially from Brendan Cull and Jody Peach, and the singing is flawless, as hilarious lines are sung with conviction.

So if rude rhymes, a bare bottom or two, and lines like “she was hotter than a hooker in a microwave” make you chuckle rather than cringe, this post-modern rom-com is the ideal night out for you.

Runs till 1 May.

To see or not to see: * * * *