Writers: Matt Tedford and Jon Brittain
Director: Jon Brittain
Matt Tedford was behind one of the funniest shows at VAULT Festival in 2018. In Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho, Tedford dressed up as the ex-Prime Minister and in a celebratory twist to history became an unlikely martyr for gay rights. His new show Sequins and Lies is a more personal narrative about missing fathers and hidden families.
Through a series of scenes starting from childhood up to the present day, Tedford tells us the story of his relationship with his father, who left the family when Tedford’s mother announced she was pregnant. Like many children, Tedford saw his father rarely, just on weekends when his father would pick Tedford up from Widnes and then go to Liverpool docks. As the years pass, and when Tedford senior finds a new wife, the father-son bond struggles to survive.
When Matt finds out that his half-brothers don’t even know of his existence, it seems as if his relationship with his dad is over. It’s surprising that either of them continue to hold out hope for a reconciliation. It may not be the most original story – real stories generally aren’t – but Tedford tells the story well, and the episodic nature of the scenes, each with their own costume change, and their own song ensure that the show flows smoothly.
While billed as a work-in-progress, there seems little to change, except, crucially, the delivery. Tedford shouts his way through most of the 60 minutes, and he even shouts his way through the songs too. Perhaps it is nerves, or perhaps he’s trying to convey the anger and the frustration he feels with his father’s lies that have written him out of the family. There are more peaceful movements towards the end and these are most welcome, and are pleasingly effective. But there are plenty of different tones between loud and confessional voices, and if Tedford could find them his performance would be a good deal more nuanced.
There are a few fluffed lines and late cues, but Tedford deals with them well, and quickly makes a joke of them. Without the handcuffs of the script, Tedford relaxes in these moments, and his presentation is briefly more natural. By the end, he has relaxed and the audience along with him, but it should come earlier.
With more time and performance, hopefully these problems can be ironed out. Director Jon Brittain likes to ratchet up the tension in his plays, best seen in Richard Gadd’s Baby Reindeer, which doesn’t relax for a second. Baby Reindeer, however, is a different play, about stalking and fear. Sequins and Lies doesn’t need to be so gung-ho: instead it needs time to breathe.
Runs until 8 March