11 February 2013

a must see Torch Song Trilogy

Torch Song Trilogy was the Tony Award winning Best Play of 1983 and in this its thirtieth anniversary year is being revived all over the world. One because it’s a gay  classic but more importantly its ideas and messages of the search for love, family and acceptance are as relevant to an audience now as they were in the early eighties.

 In Sydney we luckily have the Gaiety Theatre production playing as part of the Sydney Mardi Gras Festival – and its excellent. It seems the critics are giving it the thumbs up but from where I sit social media and good old word of mouth are already acclaiming this one of the festival highlights. 
 
image Black Rabbit Photograpty
Torch Song Trilogy is a collection of three plays by Harvey Fierstein performed as three acts: International Stud, Fugue in a Nursery, and Widows and Children First! The story centres on Arnold Beckoff, a torch song-singing Jewish drag queen living in New York City in the early pre HIV/Aids 1980s
 
Each act focuses on a different phase in Arnold's life. In the first, Arnold meets Ed, who is uncomfortable with his bisexuality. In the second, one year later, Arnold meets Alan, and the two settle down into a blissful existence that includes plans to adopt a child, until tragedy strikes. In the third, several years later, Arnold is a single father raising gay teenager David. Arnold is forced to deal with his mother's intolerance and disrespect when she visits from Florida.


image Black Rabbit Photography
This production is directed by Stephen Colyer (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Paris Letter, Hello Again) who, whist keeping the play of its time, gives it a pace and style which will keep the audience engaged over a longish evening of three and a half hours. He uses some of his dance background to great effect in act 2 bringing the action to hilarious life.

image Black Rabbit Photography
The casting is spot on and everybody ‘brings it’ here. Simon Corfield is simply perfect in his role of Arnold. From the beginning in his dressing room, where quite frankly he absolutely nails the mannerisms of the 80’s style drag queen, through the complicated contradictions of an effeminate gay man, to the showdown with his mother, it’s a huge ride of emotion played with the perfect balance of humour and heart.  
 
Amanda Muggleton is wonderful as Mrs Beckoff, although many will see this performance all too real as mothers of that time and Christian Willis as Ed manages to extract empathy for his confused relationship choices.
 
This production is wonderfully supported in the remaining casting of Belinda Wollaston, Thom Jordan and Mathew Verevis who as actors, singers and musicians not only play the lovers and adopted son, but perform a generous serve of cleverly chosen torch songs to enhance and embellish the play.
The collaboration of musical director, Phil Scott and Stephen Colyer has given this production a simple but engaging freshness that deserves its place as this year festival hit! 




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