Review: The Gay Naked Play
Light on nudity, heavy on entertainment
More from GT Stage
Above the Stag Theatre has been championing LGBT talent for over three years and this is their second play at their new home in London's Vauxhall. The theatre itself is small, seating under a hundred patrons. There is a welcoming atmosphere and with The Gay Naked Play being such a success it shouldn't be long before this space transcends its cosy confines.
The show is about the integrity players, a theatre group with high artistic morals but no audience and no money. When the integrity players meet New York’s most successful yet trashy gay theatre makers, it seems their money troubles are over, if they are prepared to make a few compromises. The troupe set about to re-create a homoerotic version of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ with the famous porn star Kit Swagger, played by Matthew Ferdenzi. However not everyone is pleased with the new direction.
The theme of finding balance between artistic value and commercial viability is very current and for some quite serious but this play deals with it in a very humourous, self-reflexive way. There are a lot of ‘in’ jokes for those who work in theatre but it’s not exclusive. The cast are a tight knit group, which makes the fast paced dialogue work really well. They talk over and react off each other; there are moments you wouldn’t believe were scripted. Especially the mile a minute chatterbox Eddie Russini, played by relative newcomer Christopher Woodley. Similarly, don’t miss Amanda, played by Stacy Sobieski, who has some amazing one-liners and the facial expressions to match.
There's no question that this is theatre on a budget. It’s not a blockbuster West End musical with flying wires and endless scenery. But what this piece does offer in the form of staging is more sparse but also far cleverer. Each prop tells a story, each scene change has purpose. Even a simple tray of biscuits is used to reveal something about characters. There are projected scene headers that work to form chapters in the narrative and distract you from the scene changes. Plus a montage of rehearsals set to Madonna’s ‘Hung Up’ cranks the camp factor up a notch.
In some ways, the biggest joke is one played on the viewer. The play is about shallow audiences and is, if we're brutally honest, being played to a potentially shallow audience who’ve come to see a gay naked play. The name reels you in and could indeed the reason why tickets have sold. Once you are in your seat, the play points at its audience and asks why people only go to the theatre for the nudity. all the while making you laugh. While we’re on the subject, there is nudity, but it's tasteful and appropriate (damn it) and not the sole point of the play. Despite the slightly misleading title The Gay Naked Play is well worth going to see. It’s the hottest ticket for under £20 in London theatre.
GT gives this: 4 out of 5.
Words: Martin Dixon