A theatrical Utopia hits Soho, the West End mini-utopia for us gays.
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The concept of utopia has united and divided humankind since time began, and this brave collaboration from Soho Theatre and Live Theatre - and directors Steve Marmion and Max Roberts - has arguably, and perhaps inevitably, had the same effect on its critics.
Six individuals, dressed in white with faces made up as clowns, explore what it means to different people in different ways with a series of sketches, speeches, songs, and segments, bound together by a ceiling lit up with thought-provoking quotes from the eclectic likes of Walt Whitman, Harold Pinter, and Lady Gaga. All of this takes place within a weird and wonderful set design by Lucy Osborne, a dark room plastered with various blueprints, ultimately unrolling to form visions from the equally, if not more so, eclectic likes of Dylan Moran, Chi Onwurrah MP, Alastair McDowell and Adolf Hitler.
Sophia Myles and a marvellous Rufus Hound boldly make their stage debuts, and Tobi Bakare makes up for his occasional lack of projection with an amplifying monologue equipped with an ending that will creep up on you. Laura Elphinstone is absolutely dazzling, diving into her fondue pot of characters with infectious energy and necessary zeal. Along with Hound and the classic David Whitaker, she carries the multitude of music courtesy of Arthur Darvill and Tom Mills with extraordinary presence - and they do an exquisitely camp pop medley too.
Pamela Miles stands out with a beautifully moving piece among the anarchy, and the writers prove they have their fingers firmly on the pulse of current affairs, with references to the Leveson inquiry and inspirations from Kony 2012 thrown into this potent potion of profound relevance.
Though differing greatly in genre and scale, this sets the overall piece apart from WildWorks and Battersea Arts Centre’s BABEL, which was based on ancient utopian ideals and billed as the theatrical event of this year, yet bewildered and essentially alienated its audience - something Utopia carefully steers clear of. It did drag at points, but it is thoughtful, comical, and certainly worth a look.
Utopia is showing at Soho Theatre until July 14, sohotheatre.com.
Words: Sam Reynolds