Neontopia – Tuck
FFresh, Wales Millennium Centre
Thursday 25th October 2018
Performances for the Curious have been a breakout hit for our Wales Millennium Centre, as Ffresh is quickly becoming the venue to be seen at and also see great new work. A programme filled with diversity is just the remedy we’ve needed within all these debates about who should be making theatre and why are we as a whole not more inclusive.
After the run away success of A Good Clean Heart by Alun Saunders at The Other Room, winning Best Play at the Wales Theatre Awards and well received reviews, the next venture is a slightly different world of drag acts, from the previous examination of foster care. Loosely based on a personal drag mentor who experienced mental health issues, this is a funny, glamorous and at the same time very sad venture. Saunders is great at little, humorous jabs, perfect for the catty nature of the drag. The exploits of Patrick, Teifion, Antoine and Steve (along with their drag personas) each has their own colour and personality, some speaking Welsh and some new to the glitz of the drag world.
Patrick, who is Pasty Thatcher on stage, is the mother goose of the flock. Though damning and at times supportive, his own mental health is what grinds the shows to a halt, by not showing up to a night at the club. Though we for the most part have a good time, as if we were in Wow Bar, the depiction of health issues could have had a bit more leading up to it. The jarring nature of the good times at the club are juxtaposed with mental anguish of the depressive kind or as Patrick says “What’s the point?”
Few shows tackle drag culture, mental health and are also partly in Welsh, so Tuck should be applauded for that. But what is the focus here? The real pull of the show is Saunders pithy writing and the four actors, or rather divas for the night. Stifyn Parri is Patrick, a wonderful, well rounded performance tackling both worlds and glitz and the pits. Considering he has never done drag should also be admired, as he brings a great mindset and fun is never far away when he/she is around. Steve is his apprentice, here played by Iestyn Arwel with much flair, great singing chops and an emotional grip for the sad bits. When Patrick loses his life to suicide, they rest our left to pick up the pieces, or rather Patrick’s gowns, as Steve is overcome with frustration and anger over losing a dear friend.
Lewis Brown is Antoine and Medusa Massid, a London character of colour who tries out bolder material with varying results (his poem was a rousing oddity). He is usually devil’s advocate, asking when will there be subtitles when Welsh is spoken (us Welsh non speakers can relate) and his brazen takes on each of the acts and men themselves reveals a lot about the character and also his success in the love department. The show is stolen by Gareth Evans as Teifion, the new generation of drag, spoon fed by Ru Paul. Although slightly vacuous, the character does have heart and is very funny with some absurd dance numbers and a new song that is one you may never forget. He might have not heard of Bob Hoskins nor know the difference between the senses, but he is sweet and could make a great drag act, looking like a mixture of Juliette Lewis and Katy Perry.
The piece could have honestly been longer, as it would have given more justification in the decline of the mental health of Patrick and more time for each of the characters to deal with it in their own way. Perhaps the show is best summed up by the golden, shimmering curtain of ribbons cascading in the wind. “All that glitters is not gold.”
Tuck has been a grand opener to the Performances for the Curious and I am hungry for more of this ambitious and intriguing work.
Rating: 4 stars
Tuck continues at the Wales Millennium Centre till 3rd November 2018.
Weeping Tudor Productions present Bernstein Bash! At St Edward’s Church, Cardiff on Saturday 1st December 2018. Join us for songs from West Side Story, Candide and other shows. Expect recital songs and also stimulating piano piece. Join us for the rumble!
Photo Credit: WMC Website
Tuck is a play which tackles LGBT issues. If you need info on LGBT issues, The Sprout has links you need to see!