Writer: Barney Ashton-Bullock & Christopher Frost
Director: Robert McWhir
Reviewer: Mike Wells
The Above the Stag Theatre has been producing LGBT+ focussed theatre for just over a decade – it’s claimed to be the only professional, full-time LGBT+ venue in the UK. That brings with it an opportunity to champion new gay writing in what is now a fantastic new venue (after moving to a new space in Vauxhall about 10 months ago).
Set in a post-Armageddon world, the ruins of an infamous gay club (Club Queereteria) are now the set for Queereteria TV, the only state-sanctioned entertainment show allowed to broadcast.
Queerteria TVis the third in a series of productions to feature Andy Bell as the character Torsten (the other two being Torsten The Bareback Saint and Torsten The Beautiful Libertine in 2014 and 2016 respectively). In this incarnation, Torsten is an old-time entertainer being held against his will by Lady Domina Bizarre.
The set is impressive. An eclectic mix of nostalgic paraphernalia and modular LCD screens strike the perfect balance between the old world and the new. Designer David Shields ought to be commended for it – it really is something special. Meanwhile, the sound design by Nico Menghini and lighting design by Michael Brinkley are similarly creative and lends the show a level of production value seldom seen in fringe theatres.
Unfortunately, the writing and most of the performances, are nowhere near as accomplished. The dialogue is overindulgent, the storyline is tedious, and the point of the show, well that’s anyone’s guess. Writer, Barney Ashton-Bullock, also plays the role of Daniel, Torsten’s lover. His performance, like his writing, leaves a lot to be desired. In many ways his performance sums up the show – at times it’s little more than an over-indulgent vanity project, which presumably wouldn’t have been made if there weren’t a famous name attached.
It’s a travesty that such a fantastic venue with the potential to host excellent quality theatre is producing shows such as this. In a city full of talented gay writers and performers there really is no excuse to be producing something so poor. It has the potential to be a bastion of brilliant ground-breaking drama, challenging social norms and encouraging vibrant discussion. Instead this is little more than a camp pantomime filled with tiresome innuendos.
It must be said though, that Matthew Baldwin in the role of Lady Domina Bizarre was great, and despite the state of the script, their performance was the only thing that held the show together. They gave they gave the show the energy it so desperately needed and demonstrated fantastic comic timing throughout.
Runs until 28 April 2019. | Image: PBG Studios