Velvet, on now in the studio space at Above The Stag in Vauxhall is an intriguing one man play written by and starring Tom Ratcliffe.
The play is a series of conversations that Tom, an inspiring young actor has with various people including his mother, boyfriend, a casting agent and a man he meets on Grindr. The conversations the character has with people in the flesh, we see Tom taking both parts, flicking back between the characters, showcasing the wit of the writing, and also the skill of Tom Radcliffe as a performer. He has a natural bounce and sense of timing that is both engaging and impressive, never once tripping over the fairly complicated dialogue that skips between people, settings and times. When we see Tom the character talking to the mysterious man online, we see the exchange as it happens on Grindr and then WhatsApp on the video screen with the man’s voice recorded, emphasising the detached nature of the relationship. Although this story resonates with the times and the Me Too movement, Tom’s character is never forced to do anything, but we do see the consequences when he politely declines an offer of a late night drink with the casting director. When things do get more sexual with the man online, it’s Tom who seems to be making the decision to take it to the next level, maybe because he thinks if he doesn’t he will lose out, which asks the question, isn’t he still being made to do this? The play zips along for most of its hour running time, although it does drag a tiny bit in the last third, but this is a clever and intelligent piece about the subtle nature of sexual coercion that is a fantastic showcase for the writing and performance skills of Tom Ratcliffe.