Queertet is the first theatre offering as part of the programme of Liverpool Pride, a great idea that highlights some real grass-roots talent to boot. But despite the Nautical but Nice theme of this year’s festival, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Grin Productions on the opening night…
Our hosts for the evening, Drew and Lewis, two of the cast members of Channel 4 documentary My Transexual Summer were hardly ever going to trouble Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby with their presenting skills, but seemed pleasant enough and their presence as LGBT ambassadors was clearly very welcome to the audience.
In Linda & Sue by Chris Christou, Linda (Annie Edwards) was an older lady who had realised her lesbian identity later in life, leaving her open to many insecurities about her younger partner Sue (Roxanne Male). Too many issues were crammed into this play, the dialogue was generally quite hackneyed and it could have done with some streamlining and focus; but devices like Linda’s fantasy numbers gave it promise.
Half a Bottle Gone again had its moments but didn’t quite hit the mark. Three friends having a normal night in are suddenly confronted with an awkward truth when one of them admits to a worrying indiscretion. Ian Walker’s script didn’t quite flesh out the characters enough for the big reveal to especially engage the audience. Nuala Maguire brought life to the only female character, two-dimensional man-eater Sophie, and Rachel White’s direction kept a tight pace.
After the interval Madam Reprobate bought things up to speed, and then some. Written by and starring Patrick Maguire, it told the tale of a young man bringing his boyfriend home from university to meet his mother for the first time. Helen Kerr gave a fearless comic performance as the loud and proud Debbie, lounging around in her nightie, effing and blinding, yet balanced with enough charm to prevent the character becoming a complete grotesque. Maguire’s John, too, had his fair share of big laughs as he tried and failed to keep control of the situation. A refreshing and genuinely funny new piece, it would certainly seem to have a bright future.
After this, a combination of unforeseen circumstances all but ruined the final play of the night, which did a terrible disservice to a strong script and two even better performances.
It’s almost not even a night out at the Lantern until someone’s wandered across the stage in the nip, so it was unsurprising that Sweats, set in a gay sauna, opened with just that. As Tommy and Eddie, Ian Walker and Andie Egan spent the whole play in just towels and sometimes even less, and although Wes William’s script was full of filthy banter, it all had its context.
Sweats was a sweet, sexy and intelligent bit of writing, handled competently by two endearing actors. As the characters chatted about life, love and everything, it wasn’t clear why the intensity of the two-hander had to be broken up by an non-credited third party, whose only purpose was to wander on, leer and be leered at, which seemed to be the only bum note (no pun intended).
Disaster struck as the sound of an Arabic disco in the restaurant next door grew ever louder as the play progressed; on top of this, an especially unpleasant audience member had to be forcibly ejected from the premises, and made an appalling show about it. Walker and Egan handled this all generally unfazed, stopping only to pause as the initial fracas getting our heckler out caused too much disruption. But it must have been disheartening.
It was a real pity Sweats suffered all this, as it was a production of quality that deserved a fully-attentive audience.
Pictured is a promotional shot from the rehearsal of Sweats, by Helen Kerr.