Phil Willmott's travels through theatreland

Eight, F-ing Men, Naked Boys Singing, All's Well That Ends Well...

Things are quietening down for the summer in London Theatre. Most of the big first nights are open air events, of which more in a later blog, however there are quite a few gay and gay related shows opening in the week of July 6th.

We’ve heard from an actor called Michael Whitman who’s very excited about the forthcoming production of a play called Eight in which he’s appearing at the Trafalgar Studios from, appropriately, July 8th.

Apparently it’s “a portrait of eight widely disparate young voices” and Michael plays Andre “a gay art dealer who comes to work to find his partner hanging from the rafters by an Hermes scarf”. The New York Times reassures us that the 23 year old writer Ella Hickson “writes with a heightened sense of the rhythms and quirks of everyday speech and uses vivid, sensory details to create believable emotional states”. Sounds well worth a look.

On the following night my productions of Naked Boys Singing and London’s longest running Off West End hit F**cking Men both transfer from the Kings Head to the Arts Theatre in the West End.

F**king Men plays from Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm and is a portrait of ten men searching for intimacy in modern day America as they negotiate lust, love and betrayal in pursuit of sex. It was only supposed to run for three weeks and it’s still going strong after 6 months so we must be doing something right.

Naked Boys Singing plays every Tuesday to Saturday at 9.30pm at the Arts Theatre and is just a feel good riot from start to finish. I keep the boys clothed for a while longer then they do in the long running New York production but, believe me, that extra teasing makes it all the better when the seven hot young guys finally strip for a fantastic all nude finale! There’s some poignant songs amongst the hilarity but don’t go expecting anything profound this is just a joyful celebration of male bodies - and the guys can sing and dance like crazy too.

Blogger Clayton Littlewood has had a big online and publishing hit with his diary Dirty White Boy: Tales of Soho in which he describes in hilarious detail the Old Compton Street characters and incidents that marked his year as a shop assistant in the Dirty White Boy clothes store in Soho. Littlewood narrates his own story with the army of other characters played by the brilliant comic actor David Benson whose one man show about Kenneth Williams Think No Evil of Us was such a hit a few years ago. This is also on at the Trafalgar Studios, at 9.30pm on the 10th, 17th and 24th July.

And if you’d like to join a debate on the current state of queer theatre you can have a pop at a panel of “experts” including me at the Drill Hall next Wednesday 1 July 2009 at 7.30pm as part of the Pride Festival. Organisers are promising “A comic and tragic stroll along the boards with queer, here and proud artists, actors, directors and writers” with “plenty of time to ask your burning questions.”

Finally if that all makes you long for a wholesome hetero love story, all be it a dark and twisted one, here’s Benet Catty’s review of Shakespeare’s “All’s Well that Ends Well” at the National Theatre. Wish I’d seen it, definitely one not to miss.

“All’s very well indeed at the National as the new production in their Travelex £10 season, All’s Well That Ends Well, is a classy staging of a warm-hearted if bizarre fairytale. Young Helena fancies sexy Bertram but the feelings aren’t reciprocated. When she cures the King of France’s fistula, the King repays the debt with a promise that she can marry anyone she wishes. She chooses Bertam, who refuses - saying that he would only marry her if she got the ring from his finger and bore his child, i.e. never. That’s what he thinks. He heads off to war, but Helena- with a typically cunning Shakespearean plan- manages to trick her way into his affections and his bed. Marianne Elliott, whose star continues to rise following her stupendous productions of Saint Joan and current hit War Horse provides a tight, witty, consciously eccentric production complete with projections of wolves and owls and fairytale tableaux to balance the more gothic, Tim Burton-ish textures of Rae Smith’s design. Michelle Terry’s charm and sweetness as Helena is irresistible, but it is Conleth Hill as Parolles - the pirate-looking friend of Bertram - whose performance defines the evening. Clare Higgins and Oliver Ford-Davies are also fantastic. All’s Well is light, witty, charming and (with many tickets at £10) inexpensive – a great cocktail of pleasures for a summer evening”

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