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Because what the Net really needs is another person sharing his uninformed views
Theatre review: Seduction 
8th-Feb-2011 10:34 pm
tragicomedavatar
Above The Stag, the theatre above a gay pub that produces almost exclusively gay-related plays, has a pretty good track record where silly fun is concerned, what with its hit annual panto, and last year's Silence of the Lambs musical. I've always found it to be on shakier ground when it attempts something a bit more serious though. It was largely curiosity that attracted me this time, as an all-gay version of La Ronde, Fucking Men, was a huge fringe hit a couple of years ago so was there any reason other than cashing in for producing Jack Heifner's 2004 play Seduction, which has the same premise, and was there anything this show had up its sleeve that the last one didn't? Well, this being the Stag, one thing it adds to the mix isFULL-FRONTAL MALE NUDITY ALERT!although in my opinion it's only adorable ginger (all over) Stanley Eldridge who you might actually want to see naked.

The play's billed as an erotic comedy but is nothing of the sort; it's actually a pretty dark drama with the odd comic scene. It falls under what I consider to be self-loathing gay drama - the title's pretty ironic as in the ten sexual encounters shown there's no seduction although there's some coercion and more than one rape. Most of the pairings feature at least one person who's at best unsure about going through with it, and in the rest there's always some financial or other incentive at work, not just sexual attraction. In keeping with the original's underlying theme of syphilis, this version has the odd AIDS reference thrown in as well, so in many ways it's the sort of self-flaggelating gay drama typical of a few years ago. Heifner's dialogue is clunky as well but Eldridge, Stewart Dunseith and Michael Morrison's delivery covers up a lot of this; when left to the completely wooden Simon Boughey and Royce Ullah though, the awkwardly-phrased lines crash to the floor. (Each actor plays two characters; Dunseith does the best job of differentiating between his two, and he and Eldridge have the best comic timing.)

Director Peter Bull gives the show an unnecessary interval (La Ronde really works better played straight through and without the interval this would have been a perfectly manageable 100-odd minutes; given how often you hear the phrases "Still time to buy drinks! Don't forget to buy your drinks! BUY DRINKS!" at the Stag though I doubt it was there for artistic purposes) but at least the second half is stronger than the first, with a bit more of that elusive humour. Fiona Russell's design throws in some well-used projections and though this isn't one to rush to it's not a dead loss either. There's sometimes an awkwardly amateurish feel to productions at ATS and although it's not entirely absent here it's definitely a step in the right direction, three of the five performances transcending the material.

Seduction by Jack Heifner, based on La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler is booking until the 20th of February at Above The Stag Theatre.
Comments 
12th-Feb-2011 04:26 pm (UTC)
I loved the ginger and I thought Dunseith was fantastic in the second half.
13th-Feb-2011 01:03 pm (UTC)
I know that "the play's the thing" and if the writing's bad nothing can save it but a couple of decent actors can make the difference between something being a complete waste of time or not.
17th-Feb-2011 01:34 am (UTC) - 'Exclusively Gay!'
Anonymous
'Above The Stag, the theatre above a gay pub that produces almost exclusively gay-related plays' - funny - how many have YOU actually seen? I've followed them since they opened (before in fact - when they were a travelling company) and although I'll stand corrected - of the 41 productions I've seen at Above The Stag, only 13 have been 'gay related' - hardly 'Exclusively gay ' Just for the record - who was cashing in on who regarding Fucking Men. According to the programme they produced their version first!
17th-Feb-2011 11:51 am (UTC) - Re: 'Exclusively Gay!'
The word "almost" was in there as well. I can't speak for the company's entire history but as things currently stand, in the last couple of years I've been aware of a minority of shows produced there not primarily having an LGBT element, and some of those were visiting productions. Prior to this show they had a gay-themed panto, and the next two shows are an adaptation of a well-known gay movie and a musical about rentboys. I think it's fair to say they have a particular artistic remit and that's fine - most theatre companies do.

I also acknowledged in my review that this version premiered in 2004 - in America. In this country, and this city, a similarly-themed (and IMO superior) show was a hit less than two years ago. Either Peter Bull is out of touch with what else is going on in London theatre, or he knew about it and made the judgement call to do something similar. It's not like I'm the only person to make the connection - when I told a friend ATS were doing a gay La Ronde his first reaction was "...hang on, didn't someone just do that?"
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