From glamorous Paris of the 20s to seedy modern London, to the Dublin scene circa 1993, our first three reviews from this year’s International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival
Montparnasse by Theatre Outré ****
This is the third visit to the festival by Canadian company Theatre Outré and this time they present Montparnasse, created by Erin Shields, Andrea Donald and Maev Beaty and set in Paris of the roaring 20s.
The performances by the two leads, Kathy Zaborsky as the model Mags and Carolyn Ruether as the artist Amelia are excellent, with a teasing and passionate chemistry between them which builds as the play proceeds. Nick Bohle, plays several smaller roles as well as providing delightful musical accompaniment.
The play has unexpected moments of humour throughout, and a lyrical romanticism that comes out of an era that may seem surprisingly open. It presents us with an unapologetic hymn to the beauty of the female body, and the nudity that the play requires seems an essential element of the piece, which is sensitively directed by Jay Whitehead. It is very rare to see such a body-positive portrayal of women in theatre, and it is long overdue. Montparnasse makes a very considerable contribution to correcting that deficit.
Montparnasse continues at the Players Theatre at Trinity College at 9pm until May 6, with a matinee this coming Saturday at 2.30pm, tickets here.
Bleach by British Exist Theatre ****
This a darkly funny and in-your-face one-man show that tells the story of Tyler Everett, a young and very unapologetic rent boy, as he navigates his way through the seedier side of modern London.
Written by and starring Dan Reeves-Ireland, in some ways this bad-boy tale may be a familiar enough one for Gay Theatre Festival audiences, but what sets it apart is the quality of the writing, along with a stand-out performance by Reeves-Ireland. In Tyler he creates a complex character who is both cynical and manipulative, but almost impossible not to like for his honesty and insight.
It’s a very fine line to tread for an actor, but Reeves-Ireland manages it with aplomb, offsetting the play’s darker moments with flashes of a barbed wit. It all makes for a gripping, shocking story. Recommended.
Bleach continues at Outhouse Studio at 9pm until Saturday May 6 with a matinee performance on Saturday at 2.30pm, tickets here.
The Paradise by Acting out *****
I suspected we were in for a great time at this show when the doormen of the Paradise, Bernard and Maggie (played hilariously by Sean Denyer and Justine Reilly) were already interacting with the queue, and stamping us with ‘tramp’ or ‘slut’ (FYI: I was judged to be a tramp) on our wrists as we waited.
Presented at the festival by Dublin’s LGBT community theatre group, Acting Out, The Paradise follows a group of friends in 2015 who are meeting up for the closing night of Dublin’s oldest gay club. The return of one of them, Colm (strongly played by Paul Clarke), after a 20 year absence, leads to a flashback to 1993, as a set of events unfolds which will affect them all in different ways over the decades.
A cast of 14 throw themselves into the action with great gusto, and there are some lovely performances, notably from Rachel Fayne as the politically correct Orla, and David Morgan as the excitable Billy. Billy suffers from an unrequited passion for Colm, which is played out in the gorgeously plaintive song, ‘If I were A Pet Shop Boy’. The songs by Mark Power (who also plays the wonderfully old-style club owner, Eva Destruction) and Ian Henderson, of Irish electro-pop duo Eden, are brilliant, ranging from a gorgeous torch song, ‘Never Again’, to the very catchy dance number, ‘Going Going Gone’.
The stand-out performance comes from Lorcan McElwain as Irma La Douche, Colm’s old flame. She looks stunning, has a beautiful voice and can put you down with a withering comment at 20 paces (and writer Sean Denyer supplies her with many choice ones).
Musicals are very hard to do, and hats off to director Howard Lodge and choreographer Nichola Mooney for pulling it off. For a community theatre group to put on such an ambitious project and succeed so well, is a testament to the talent in the LGBT community. Thoroughly entertaining.
The Paradise continues at The Complex at 9pm until May 6, with a matinee on Saturday at 4pm. Book here or pay on the door.
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