DramaFeaturedNorth WestReview

BI-TOPIA – Waterside Arts, Sale

Reviewer: Jo Beggs

Writer: Sam Danson

Director: Rikki Beadle-Blair

Sam Danson’s semi-autobiographical show is open and honest – about his struggles with mental health, with his sexuality, and with all the uncomfortable bits of being young and finding a way in the world. From early gay experimentation in the boys’ loos at school to desperately trying to have fun at a party where he’s been instantly ditched by his mate. From feeling inadequate because he’s in an under-achieving job, to an awkward conversation with his dad, Danson takes all those moments in life that feel momentous at the time, and creates a show that, while telling a very particular life story, resonates with us all.

BI-TOPIA all about expectations. Family and parental expectations, your mates at school, at work. But most of all the expectations you heap upon yourself. The expectations you can never realistically achieve. Sam’s story is set in a metaphorical war zone, a world in which men live up to all society’s expectations, standing firm, knowing who they are and who’s the enemy. From the war-room (where battle strategy determines the action) to the front-line (where there’s no option but to stand up and fight), Sam’s internal world reflects that of his real world – where the enemies are coming at him from every side.

Danson has written a powerful, warm and funny piece of theatre that explores some difficult issues with a light touch, an amiable, upbeat coming-of-age and coming-out story. His performance is equally genial as he creates a cast of characters and shares some candid thoughts and experiences. This compelling hour of story-telling is delivered flawlessly. Danson is a likeable, talented performer. While he has created a highly personal performance, it avoids self-indulgence or any sense of soliciting sympathy, honing in on universal emotions.

Performed in a spectacular room in Sale Town Hall, BI-TOPIA has a slightly over-complicated set, with war-zone detritus littering the floor, much of which is impossible to see from the audience in a space with no rake. But it’s hardly even necessary. This is a one-man show that’s all about the man. Danson needs little else to deliver a powerful, enjoyable hour of theatre.

Runs until 20 May 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

candid, powerful, gentle

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The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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