Phil couldn’t make this one. He claimed he was off to a thanksgiving dinner but it was Andrew who was most thankful.
For Phil may have found himself on the horns of a terrible dilemma here. On the one hand he would have been thrilled with the food on stage: a spaghetti meal and a dance number involving strings of sausages but on the other hand there was a park bench in Act II. And even though this was technically a cemetery bench it was the kind of outdoor furniture which generally raises his hackles.
These, however, are concerns which probably did not pass through the minds of lyricst/composer Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty or Terrence McNally* who wrote the book of A Man Of No Importance based on a 1995 film.
Film, of course, being pronounced “fillum” as it is set in Dublin. Andrew had worried that it was all going to be a bit Riverdance. But on the whole it wasn’t.
It’s 1963 and bus conductor Alfie’s life is dedicated to running an amateur theatre group which meets in St. Imelda’s Church hall but the church takes a dim view of his decision to present Oscar Wilde’s Salome and when Alfie becomes the victim of queer bashing/mugging, it seems his life will fall apart.
Once more the Union punches above its weight. Director Ben De Wynter delivers a slick and charming production with an infeasibly large cast (17!) working with an infeasibly small orchestra of three. And yet it all works. It’s even got some funny bits, the funniest by far being an attempt to choreograph the dance of the seven veils in tap. Paul Clarkson is superb as Alfie and there’s top notch support all round but Andrew was particularly impressed by the voice of Patrick Kelliher (the object of Alfie’s unrequited love) and Jamie Honeybourne‘s comic turn as Ernie Lally.
A most impressive production. And yet. And yet….
Andrew can’t help feeling he’s suffering from Gay Theatre Overload. It does seem that you can’t move for gay characters on the London stage at the moment: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Public Property, La Cage Aux Folles, Prick Up Your Ears and The Habit Of Art, Cock, Priscilla Queen Of the Desert and The Shawshank Redemption (at a stretch) follow hot on the heels of The Fastest Clock In the Universe and Cloud Nine. Bringing up the rear will be The Little Dog Laughed and Rope.
Indeed Andrew is starting a campaign to address the issue of the over-representation of gay men in plays and musicals. His lobby group The Campaign for Less Over-representation of Gays (CLOG) will aim:
a) To educate playwrights about alternative heart-wrenching emotional shame-inducing secrets that make people outcasts from society – such as fancying Jedward.
b) To increase the representation of lesbians on the stage although this will mostly consist of persuading Sonia Friedman to revive The Killing Of Sister George with someone fabulous in the Beryl Reid role such as Sian Phillips or Beverly Klein. An appeal to the Twitterverse also came up with these suggestions: Sandi Toksvig (from @garethabbit) and Pauline McLynn (“Ah gwan, gwan Childie, let me see your t*ts….”) suggested by @chrispoppe. Update: and Amanda Lawrence (@postculturist), Claire Higgins (@schiaparelli)
*This is, incidentally, the team behind Ragtime, currently enjoying a Broadway revival.