The subtitle of the fabulously named Gay Naked Play is ‘a satire on artistic compromise’. This satire is wonderful in its ability to mock all things show-business and the ferocious campness of today’s gay scene. In the depths of off- off- Broadway lie the Integrity Players, serving to ‘illuminate the human condition through faithful productions of the lesser- known classics’. However, they have the perennial problem of pulling only ten ticket sales a night. Despite their faithfulness to the ‘deconstruction of Chekov’, no one wants to watch their stuff. Along come the richest (and trashiest) gay theatre team in New York, who take a fancy to the Player’s lead actor. Despite offering big bucks, the Integrity Players struggle with the morality of ‘selling out’. The production that the gay theatre team are proposing is a bad- taste erotic staged version of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.
This play certainly is hilarious. It is a wonderful commentary on the challenges faced by anyone working in theatre as to how to strike the balance between popularity and integrity. At what point in a career does it become a last resort (or indeed matters little) to ‘sell out’?
The Gay Naked Play is ‘The Producers– esque’, a commentary on today’s entertainment industry where sexual spectacle sells: productions that help us to understand ‘the human condition’ are often subsidised or simply lose money. The focal point of this is the ‘gay naked’ guy Kit Swagger (played with suitably Brando- esque stupidity by Matthew Ferdenzi), a porn star trying to make it as a serious actor. One particularly hilarious scene between him and an actor from the Integrity Players (Lucas Livesey), tries to get him to do the old acting trick of accessing traumatic memories in order to add some meat to his delivery of Christ’s ‘passion’ in the crucifixion scene.
The show is stolen, however, by the appalling trashiness of the gay theatre production team. Chris Woodley, Robert Hannouch and Toby Joyce squabble, screech and preen their way through the show: ‘self- respecting, self- destructive gays’ and representations of what theatre audiences really want to see – “no one buys a ticket for Coriolanus unless they are studying it or are on subscription!”. Their shocking antics prove them frustratingly right as they bring to the stage a frenetic, compelling energy. They bring the ‘Gay’ to The Gay Naked Play, but also the glue that binds the reasoning behind this satire together.
The Above The Stag Theatre has just moved to a new location underneath the arches right in the centre of Vauxhall’s gay scene. The new foyer and bar area is well decorated and the small black box space flexible. Now the Above The Stag has a stage to perform in-house productions on, I hope to enjoy some more merry evenings there!
The Gay Naked Play is running at the Above The Stag Theatre until the 16 February. For more information and tickets, please visit the Above The Stag website.