20:59 | 25th May 2019

Reviews: Live Shows

Sun 24 Jan, 2016
By Robert Ingham

Blackburn has been very generous with his incredibly funny one-liners and witty observations

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Above The Stag Theatre’s 2016 season has begun, and what else is better to bring a bit of winter sun to the wet streets of London than a hugely entertaining and very funny comedy by Martin Blackburn?

‘Alright Bitches!’ kick-starts the only LGBT dedicated theatre’s year, and what a kick it is. Set in Gran Canaria, it follows five people on a seven-day break to get away from their mundane lives.

Jason is an uptight banker who has begrudgingly agreed to his younger boyfriend’s wish to holiday in Gran Canaria, but would rather be trekking in the Andes than going out every night to an 80s shopping centre or playing gay bingo.

At ‘Los Hombres’ resort they meet best mates Garth and Max, two northern queens who excel at bitchy putdowns and one-night stands, and their friend Pam, who has given up on men – that is until the drinks start flowing.

This is a strong debut from Martin Blackburn. His experiences of Gran Can have certainly helped build the play, and he pulls out all the stops with cliché characters who behave exactly how you think they will. Except this time the clichés should not be considered a negative as, in fact, the familiarity accentuates the humour as we have all met each of these characters at least once, especially if you’ve been to Gran Canaria yourself, you’ll have spotted a whole gaggle of them. Blackburn has been very generous with his incredibly funny one-liners and witty observations, and the cast deliver these with gay abandon. They know it’s not Noel Coward but the sharp script, especially between Garth and Max, is exciting enough to keep the audience wanting more.

There are some interesting points made during this frivolity and superficiality, such as a commentary around the need for the gay scene and hotels, growing old, and relationships. However, the play really shows its heart in the second act when we really begin to relate to the characters. This heart is fuelled by a truly wonderful turn from Hannah Vesty, as Pam, who steals each scene she’s in and has some cracking dialogue throughout. It’s also fair to say that cornettos will never be seen in the same light again.

Ethan Chapples, as Garth, is also a joy to watch, giving depth and poignancy to a character that could easily remain two dimensional. Lucas Livesey (Max) is thoroughly enjoyable, chewing up and spitting out lines as if he’d found unwanted hairs in his cocktail. Grant Cartwright, playing Ollie, is superb as the lithe twink wandering around in the skimpiest pair of speedos the director could find. And Anton Tweedle, as Jason, is great as the kind of character you just want to shake and tell him to chill out, even if the resort you’re in is surrounded by barbed wire.

This is another assured directorial piece from ATS veteran Andrew Beckett, who also designed the set, and you really do believe you are in the Canary Islands and not under an arch in Vauxhall. All in all, a great start to the year for Above The Stag theatre.

Chekhov it ain’t, but it should still be checked-out.

‘Alright Bitches’ is on until 21st February, Arch 17, Miles Street, Vauxhall, London, SW8 1RZ


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