This camp, colourful, and consummately comic production is based on a true story that has a devastating sting in its tail.
Small-town America in the early 90’s: Stanley – a trailer-park homosexual who lives with his Mom and dreams of San Francisco – has a major crush on Lee – the handsome straight waiter from his local restaurant – but how to let him know…? Why, fly to New York and surprise him with the revelation on a national television chat-show, of course.
While it may seem like a faintly absurd basis for a plot, this unlikely tale of televisual trauma did actually happen. We won’t give away the ending here, but some of you may remember reading about it in the news at the time – apparently the clip of the original chat-show bombshell is available online. Author Ronnie Larsen has taken a real-life drama and transformed it into a captivating narrative – one that is painted with broad comedic strokes for the most part, but is also capable of suitable gravitas and reflection when required.
Playing Stanley’s drag-queen best friend Sally, and stunning us with several memorable musical interludes, is cultural icon and scene legend Dave Lynn. Lynn gives a bravura performance and gifts a real sense of 90’s magic to proceedings. Despite it being a solitary anachronistic anomaly, his rendition of ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ is a triumphant highlight. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to witness a true star so thriving in their element.
The whole piece is exceptionally well cast. Richard Watkins, as the straight guy caught by the queer eye – Lee – gives us a complex and layered interpretation of a part that could easily be played as caricature. Watkins displays nuance, depth, and a magnificent arse in the nude sex scene – an artiste with real skill and, doubtless, a bright future. Camp counterpart Stanley – performed with precision mincing by Chris Britton – is another brilliantly realised portrait, with Britton allowing us flashes of a real vulnerable human beneath the gaudy exterior of effeminate excess.
Many of the biggest laughs of the night belong to Louie Westwood as Brian – the acidly acerbic make-up and costume supervisor on the Jill Johnson Show. Westwood is a complete master of the bitchy put-down and flamboyantly steals the stage whenever he’s on it. An absolute theatrical star, Westwood is one to watch. There’s also comic brilliance from Ruth Peterson as Jill Johnson herself – totally nailing the 90’s chat-show vibe with fierce flair.
‘Do You Have A Secret Crush? (Sleeping With Straight Men)’ is a hugely enjoyable and consistently entertaining piece of theatre. If you don’t already know the original outcome, then we urge you to fight the temptation to to find out beforehand – just go and appreciate being surprised by the twists and turns of this sublime slice of 90’s mayhem. With songs, laughs, and nudity – as well as some surprisingly affecting serious moments, Director Robert McWhir has put together a small masterpiece to be savoured – enjoy.
GT gives Do You Have A Secret Crush? (Sleeping With Straight Men) — 5/5
Do You Have A Secret Crush? (Sleeping With Straight Men) runs at The Lost Theatre until 21 August. Full details at losttheatre.co.uk.