With open arms we are welcomed into Jack Hoosie’s Leisure Groan in South Yorkshire. Unfortunately, discounts are not available for lesbians, and full memberships are exclusively available to bears. In a meticulous manner, Jack Hoosie (Gareth Edward) explains to us the dos and don’ts of South Yorkshire’s third most hygienic gay sauna on a Monday evening at The Water Rats pub theatre.
The stage is excessively decorated, replicating the welcoming atmosphere of an acclaimed gay sauna in the 90s. We get a verbal tour of the facilities – the locker rooms, the Whitney Whirlpool, the Spice Girls eucalyptus Sauna, the old confession booth and of course the dart board reserved for the lesbian dart champions who comprise at least fifty percent of Leisure Groan’s members. After bringing the threesome in the whirlpool to an end via his beloved intercom, Jack Hoosie runs us through the agenda of the week. It includes Feet Fetish Tuesdays, Teacher and Student discounts and of course Bukkake night. With passion and a glint in his eyes, he shares the gossip about what’s going on behind the scenes. And of course, what’s going on in his questionable relationship with his partner Terry.
As great as the story of Jack Hoosie and the Leisure Groan sounds and as promising as the comedic setup of the show directed by Gareth Kennerley is, the execution sadly disappoints. Edward looks surprisingly lost on the pompously decorated stage and seems to shuffle back on forth (physically, and verbally) without getting anywhere in his story. His portrayal stays on the same note throughout his one-man show and many jokes fall flat. What is missing is range and ark. Dripping with funny anecdotes and theoretically good jokes, the funny moments are lacking a build up and a punchline. What might be funny on paper needs an adaption for the stage to achieve more than just a few chuckles from the audience.
Edward’s headset microphone is as redundant in the intimate space as the insanely detailed set decoration. Keys are dangling behind the reception desk, an entire stage flat is covered in posters, and even a shag carpet is decking The Water Rat’s stage. Edward is wholeheartedly relying on it to drive his performance which wouldn’t be a problem if the storyline was at least leading somewhere. Unfortunately, other than reminiscing about gay saunas in the 90s, and Jack’s longing for a Steinway piano for his cabaret nights, there are no poignant moments in the play.
Jack Hoosie and the Leisure Groan could work well as a comedy – or even a cabaret show – if it embraced one or the other. It sadly does not work as a one-man monologue relying this heavily on its exuberant stage decoration while it threatens to bomb at any second.
Jack Hoosie and the Leisure Groan played at The Water Rats on 2 August 2021. For more information and tickets visit The Water Rats website.