The first thing that has to be said is that to open a brand new theatre in a developing area of London in the current financial climate is an amazing achievement and should be applauded. The wonderful and very spacious Turbine Theatre, founded and led by Paul Taylor-Mills, with its stunning industrial chic feel, is that place. By choosing Torch Song, Harvey Fierstein’s subliminal masterpiece, as its first production is a master stroke.
This hilarious production is very faithful to the original play and subsequent movie and if there were any restrictions due to the size of the stage, in this production they are quickly overcome by director Drew McOnie. McOnie’s acute understanding of the themes of the play and the sense of claustrophobia that has to be created – as the characters at times exist in their own private bubble – made for memorable theatre.
With Torch Song the casting has to be so right and in this instance it is perfection. With Matthew Needham as our eponymous hero Arnold acting up a storm, and with stunning support especially by Dino Fetscher as Ed, the story of their troubled relationship unfolds before our eyes. McOnie introduces us to Arnold by getting him to perform a direct monologue to the audience as he removes his armour – his drag – this adds to the intimacy of the play which is paramount to the piece. With fellow cast members Daisy Boulton as Laurel, Jay Lycurgo as David, the boy Arnold eventually wants to adopt and call him his son, Rish Shah as Alan and Bernice Stegers as Ma, Arnold’s overbearing Jewish mother.
This is a magical revival where the speed of the delivery of the dialogue, intrinsic to the battle of words and the element of Jewish humour woven into the script, made for absorbing, very powerful, riveting and passionate entertainment – and when the cast took their bows the standing ovation was so deserved.
Photos by Mark Senior