Friday, 29 April 2016

"Shopping And F***ing" by Mark Ravenhall
Nottingham New Theatre

This could be the hardest or the most easiest reviews I've written so far. Hardest because of the content of the play but easiest because of the way the play was presented.

I spend a lot of time reviewing musicals, comedies, classic tragedies, dramas the ballet and opera but this play is in a league of its' own. The cast are very brave for tackling the subjects within the play, but I am so glad they have, because this play needs to be seen.

There are two scenarios which involve Mark, Brian, Lulu, Robbie and Gary. Why the writer used the names of four of the members of Take that and Lulu, who of course recorded "Relight My Fire" with the band, I don't know.

Lulu and Robbie's scenario is built around selling ecstasy for Brian, who Lulu approached for a sales job. After Robbie decided to give the pills away instead of selling them, Brian told them they have one week to deliver the £3000 from what should have been the sale of the drugs. He played them a short film of the last person who failed in the selling task. Spurred on by the film they both took to selling sex over the phone, but they had to find the last £1000 another, more gruesome way.....

Mark has just come off of drugs and has been kicked out of a self imposed drug rehabilitation centre due to him breaking one of the rules. He latches on to Gary and they strike up a relationship which involves money transactions. This is so that Mark believes that there is no emotional involvement.

Through this "relationship" we discover the most harrowing of stories of Gary's past. Mark takes Gary back to his place to show him where he lives and they run into Robbie who was previously in a relationship with Mark. Robbie still has feelings for Mark and is wildly jealous of Gary, who admits that he has no feelings for Mark. During the conversation Gary reveals even more and Robbie sees a way of how to reap back the shortfall of the £1000 they owe to Brian.

The final scene involving Mark, Robbie and Gary is one of the uneasiest I've seen in the theatre.

I've always said that theatre, music, art, books etc should evoke an emotion and this play certainly does that. You feel sick at Gary's history and his future, but he doesn't know any different, which again is just so sad because this sort of situation still goes on, even in 2016. You feel anger at the people who did what they did to Gary.

You also feel anger anger at Brian for using Lulu and Robbie and for the power and the hold he has over them, and just when they, and you, feel they have managed to escape his evil clutches, you and they realise that this is only just the beginning. You feel sadness, anger, horror but there's also a modicum of laughs here as well.

There are few plays which focus on gay lifestyle and the way that gay people are treated in society. "Beautiful Thing", "Priscilla", "Kinky Boots", "Bare" and "Rent" come to mind but this is written with such base reality, the rawness of the script, the language and the content of the play really hammers it home that being openly gay is still not wholly accepted, and abused in today's society. Things still need to change. Attitudes still need to change.

The cast are nothing short than brilliant. They inject the passion and, for them, I can only imagine that this play leaves them totally exhausted, physically and emotionally, But what guts they have for bringing this wonderful piece of theatre to the public forum.

Charlie Jamieson (Mark), Duncan James Mcgillivray (Brian), Lara Cowler (Lulu), Cameron Walker (Robbie) and Ted Marriot (Gary) threw in every ounce of emotion. You wouldn't be able to ask for any more from them, especially Ted with his heart-breaking story of abuse and low expectations was especially outstanding.

Produced by Rory O'Shea and directed amazingly by Liam McLelland. This is Liam's directorial debut for NNT and with the standard being set so high, it makes you wonder where he will go next to better this one.

Clever use of lighting to separate the scenes with the lighting designed by Harry Bridge. This design highlighting the equally clever yet simple set design by Darcey Graham.

This was my third visit this week to the Nottingham New Theatre and I have had the pleasure of seeing an amazing amount of talent from every actor over the three plays this week. The naturalness and rawness has just blown me away, and if this is the measure of the talent coming up through Nottingham's universities, I for one am very excited for the future of drama in Nottingham.

"Shopping and F***ing" is on at The Nottingham New Theatre until Saturday 30 April 2016 with a matinee performance as well as an evening show. Whether you're straight, gay, bi, transgender, or from another planet, I'd urge you to see this play because it is a very humbling and emotional piece of theatre performed by a gutsy group of actors.

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