Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club

3
Tue, 23rd Oct 18
Seen at Above the Stag Theatre.

In the second production in the Jonathan Harvey retrospective, Steven Dexter has not quite found the balance to let this bittersweet comedy carry the audience along. The queens are not exuberant enough, funny lines are lost and the first half lacks shape and variety of pace.

On a gorgeous set by David Shields, we are presented with lost souls each in search of love. Their curious, ridiculous intertwining leads to a shock denouement which will improve as the cast become more relaxed with the piece.

Tom Whittaker has a complex character to portray. Is he naïve or deliberately denying his brother’s sexuality until he is sixteen? How come he is so distraught so quickly when his girlfriend has gone away for a funeral? Whittaker shows his petulance with a kick of his heel lying on the bed and hints at his secrets with a confused, accepting silence. As his older brother Marti, Hal Geller effectively shows us the frustrated side of this character, but needs to work up the camp. He claims to be one of the last old-style Queens, but quoting Bette Davis scripts isn’t enough, we need to see the cynicism, extremity and delight in his posturing.

Myles Devonte could relish his entrance as trannie Dean with more enthusiasm – it’s a larger than life character which the audience were rooting for on sight, he needs to relax and indulge himself and us.

Amy Dunn makes George the teacher to make anyone cringe, desperate to be trendy, rarely appreciating how awkward her interventions are. Nicely played. Phoebe Vigor plays Clarine’s mental health issues subtly, shading her oddness differently as her story progresses. Her caring for Marti in the final scene is another surprise, proof that none of these characters is as straightforward as they may seem at first sight.

The pace in the first half was too even, perhaps because they have so much to pack in. The second half starts more slowly, giving us time to enjoy the different threads of the story as they entwine. As the cast get to time the laughs with more familiarity and enjoy the extravagance of their characters, this production should develop into a more satisfying tale of sad, damaged lives. It did leave me wondering where the hell they would go from here!

Derek Benfield


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