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Review: The Speed Twins

Darkly camp, camply dark...


Queenie, a respectable widow, is perplexed to suddenly find herself in a dark and mysterious nightclub. Dusty Springfield crackles out of the jukebox. There is an apparently endless supply of free booze. Oh, and everyone else here is a lesbian. Queenie, with the assistance of several other larger-than-life women who have also made their way to this ‘dyke heaven’, must examine the life that she is living and justify the choices that she has made, even if that means returning to times that she’d rather forget.

What follows is a glorious metaphysical romp that had us transfixed from start to finish. It’s not giving too much away to reveal that Queenie, brought to life with brutally authentic conviction by Polly Hemmingway, is revealed to be a closeted lesbian living a life of repression - there are plenty more twists and turns. Its this internal conflict that forms the meat of the play's meditation on what it is that truly makes us who we are - how much of our selves do we choose?

Bringing the comic relief, and solidly certain of her sapphistic sensibilities, is the unrepentantly butch Ollie - all-drinking, all-smoking, and initially mistaken for Beryl Reid. A show stealing performance from Amanda Boxer - skipping from outright slapstick to deep tragedy with striking skill. Her oft-repeated gags about fucking Princess Margaret will stay with us for some time...

The design is sublime. Andrew D Edward’s recreation of the real-world Gateways bar and it’s infrastructure is so impressive that as we took our seats we wondered why anyone would build a theatre with an air vent running through the middle of the stage. Yes - we’re a bit thick sometimes. The set’s indistinct boundaries and hidden surprises, all wrapped up in a deliciously mysterious soundscape from Ed Lewis, give the piece an otherworldly quality that titillates and tantalises like a finely crafted puzzle box.

A remarkable evening of entertainment - clever, capricious, and consistently funny. An unlikely philosophical adventure through sapphic psychology - we can’t recommend it enough.

GT gives this 5/5

The Speed Twins runs at Riverside Studios until September 28th. More details at Riverside Studios

Words: Richard Unwin

Photo: Catherine Ashmore

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