Seen at Above the Stag.
Written as the camp foil to an Evening with Gary Lineker, this story of a date with the Eurovision Song Contest is one of Jonathan Harvey’s earliest pieces of writing. Set in the mid-1990s in a flat in Kentish Town, we are presented with a somewhat dysfunctional group of friends (and a neighbour) about to settle down for one of the host’s - and arguably the gay community’s - highlights of the year.
Our host is Lee (Adam McCoy) who we learn has recently lost his partner, Michael. His group of campers number his sister Wendy (Tori Hargreaves), good friend Steph (Christopher Lane), Michael’s best friend, Tania (Florence Odumosu) and her boyfriend Nick (John Hogg). Desperate to get in on the action is upstairs neighbour Norman (Joshua Coley).
Andrew Beckett’s design perfectly captures the spirit of the era. His direction though is less assured. Harvey provides his players with some cracking, laugh out loud, one liners. I’m less convinced that he’s managed to create fully rounded characters, certainly none that Beckett seemed to draw out of his actors. It’s an undoubtedly funny script but humour can only come from truth so playing for the laughs does both writer and actor a disservice.
Beckett struggled, too, to find a cohesive style so it felt at times that the actors were not all in the same play. Joshua Coley’s Norman was beautifully realised and physically comedic but it felt out of place and so became a ‘turn’ rather than a cohesive element of the play. Christopher Lane as Steph again gave a great, energetic performance but it was one that felt more suited to a pantomime. Perfectly fine, if you’re in a pantomime. The entire cast also felt under rehearsed, tripping over words and often failing to convincingly convey the reasons behind their actions. Perhaps it was press night nerves but it meant that much of this production fell flat. Not quite Rock Bottom but certainly not Flying the Flag.