Now this one's kind of lots of different things and nothing in particular at the same time. Dirty White Boy was a designer clothes shop in Old Compton Street that closed after a couple of years' trading; this may have been because, on this evidence, instead of selling any clothes Clayton Littlewood mainly sat at the window, chatting to Soho's more colourful characters and making notes, then blogging about them at night. His blog became a column in the equally ill-fated thelondonpaper
, then a book, Dirty White Boy: Tales of Soho
. According to the programme notes this stage version came about because Littlewood was asked to do readings from the book and having always found readings dull affairs asked actor David Benson to play the parts of the various eccentrics he encountered. In the show's current incarnation, between scenes we also get torch songs from Alexis Gerred, or to use his real name, Cute Twink #2
from the recent Eurovision
It's a shame that this development process stopped short of taking the next obvious step, and replacing Littlewood himself with an actor, because while he would seem to have a knack for getting people to open up in conversation, as a performer he's not convincing in the role of "himself." He's awkward on stage and looks desperately uncomfortable, pulling faces and constantly biting his lower lip nervously. It does rather make the whole production seem like a vanity project, not helped by the fact that his real-life partner Jorge Betancourt is credited as designer. A shame because there's definitely interesting stuff here, helped mainly by Benson being a very likeable and versatile character actor who brings the various old queens and one post-op transexual to life. Sadly only a small core of eccentrics is represented - focusing on a handful of regulars does give the play a narrative structure but it takes away the "people-watching" theme of seeing life go by, and you feel as if you've been cheated of a couple more pieces of mimicry Benson might have up his sleeve.
Gerred is there mainly to be pretty and there's no complaints on that score. His voice is a different matter - it's pretty enough in the right song but as Dame Shirley would say, he doesn't have the range dear; he struggles on anything approaching a "big" note, and wears a mike in this tiny theatre. He also overacts on a couple of the songs - I really wish director Phil Wilmott had got him to tone down the way he (repeatedly) growls the chorus of the Pet Shop Boys' "Rent" - I was sitting there getting a bit annoyed and thinking "yes, we had
worked out what the song was about, thanks." Still, he has two songs with no shirt on plus one scene in a bathing suit, and he quickly flashes his bum so like I say, he pretty much fulfills the role he's really
there for (getting perverts like me to show up.)
Still, largely thanks to David Benson I can't say it's an unsuccessful evening; more one to make you smile than make you laugh, and a couple of more thoughtful moments, this might have benefitted with being developed a bit more before being let loose in the West End.Dirty White Boy
by Clayton Littlewood is booking until the 22nd of May at Trafalgar Studio 2.