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Review: Bitches Ahoy! at Above The Stag Theatre

This loose sequel to last year’s Alright Bitches! is a boatload of nautical naughtiness that brings high-camp to the high-seas.

Above the Stag Theatre – the UK’s only LGBT dedicated theatre space – present a catch-up with friends Max and Garth, as well as their straight pal Pam. This time the action takes place on a gay cruise ship… Max, now working as crew, has managed to get cut-price deals for Garth and Pam – both with attractive new partners in tow – but is everything truly as it appears as we set sail for an adventure of intrigue and innuendo?

The tone is set with the strap-line on the poster: ‘Grab hold of your rings boys, it’s time to go cruising!’ And things just get cruder and ruder from there on in. Every conceivable nautical double entendre is stuffed in to an outrageously saucy script and sprayed over the audience with abandon.The ‘Carry On Cruising’ vibe is welcome relief from the relentless doom and gloom of January, and it’s a playful piece full to the brim with lascivious laughs and larks – this is some well-timed winter sun that satisfies with a hefty load.

Stag regular Lucas Livesey gives a command performance as Max – holding the whole shebang together with an endearingly jaded persona that we hope to see set sail on further adventures. Livesey presents us with a seasoned sailor, whose habit of churning out filthy innuendo on automatic pilot has become almost as painful to him as it is delightful to us – ship shape stuff.

Ethan Chapples as Garth continues to build upon a deceptively complex characterisation that was set up in his initial appearance – the eternal party boy having finally settled down with a permanent partner. And Hannah Vesty is as glorious as ever as Pam – unapologetically reckless and raucous – summed up in an entrance in which she is plucking her… entrance. Pam doesn’t get quite the level of pathos that she enjoyed in Alright Bitches!, but she still has quite the journey to experience here… and an unforgettable Cher karaoke scene.

As well as the trio of returning favourites, there are a couple of new characters in play here. Memorable for all the right reasons is Simon Burr as Pam’s stunning new French fiancee, Patrice. Fresh from the Stag’s recent panto, Burr is perfect casting for a part that requires him to spend large chunks of the action in nothing but skimpy speedos. Chris Clynes is Drew – the man who’s finally persuaded Garth to renounce his man-whore ways and settle down. The relationship played out here hits some nicely subtle notes which Clynes executes well.

The plot is surprisingly gripping, especially in the second act as things begin to unravel, masks slip, and deceptions are revealed… But what’s really on offer here is massive barrel-load of fun. From moments of well-constructed farce – as people hide in closets and secrets are overhead on balconies – to more knowing winks, it’s the camptastic clowning that makes this seafaring sitcom such a rewarding voyage.

Don’t worry if you weren’t lucky enough to catch the original outing last year – this trip is a self-contained package. Book yourself a first-class ticket, get away from it all, and go cruising with some deliciously salty sea men.

GT gives Bitches Ahoy! — 4/5


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