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Sebright Productions Limited presents

Dirty White Boy - Tales of Soho

 

Adapted from the book by Clayton Littlewood

 

Director: Phil Willmott

 

Designer: Jorge Betancourt

 

Musical Director: Phil Innes

 

Musical Director: Phil Innes

 

Trafalgar Studios

 

27 April – 15 May 2010

 

 


 

 

A review by James Buxton for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Dirty White Boy was a clothes shop in Soho run by Clayton Littlewood and his partner Jorge Betancourt in the late Noughties. Inspired by the exotic array of drag queens, rent boys and general  public who passed by his window, Littlewood started to write a blog on MySpace recounting his encounters with the larger than life characters that came into his shop. The blog became highly successful and Littlewood was able to publish a book Dirty White Boy: Tales of Soho in 2008 based on his blog. Since then the book has been adapted for the stage at Trafalgar Studios.

The simple set consists of two blue chairs at its centre surrounded by cardboard boxes with the logo ‘Dirty White Boy’ printed on them. Littlewood gives an intimate account of life at the shop, clutching his pen and notepad, he narrates directly to the audience in a casual manner, as if he were in the company of friends. In his softly spoken, gentle way, Littlewood relates to the audience outlandish stories based on real events, featuring hookers from the brothel upstairs, gangs of homophobic rudeboys and ball busting baliffs. He also introduces us to David Benson who brings the queens who regularly visited the shop to life. Alexis Gerred provides support, singing various famous numbers between vignettes and providing obvious eye candy through his natural good looks.

Littlewood is clearly not a professional actor, as one can tell by him stumbling over his lines on a few occasions and his laissez-faire attitude in general, but rather than undermining the play this actually makes the play more accessible and free from any theatrical pretension. Instead he directly engages the audience in a genuine manner and allows us to enter into his story. His writing is well informed, with an awareness of the theatricality of the gay community that gives the play its humour. His insights into the characters allow Benson to capture the camp mannerisms and eccentricities in an entertaining way.

Benson performs a number of gay men in hilarious ways, putting on a variety of accents and manners. His old eccentric queen carries the camp airs of an aristocrat and the mind of a guttersnipe, while his brash, out spoken transsexual Angie, struts about, imitating famous female film stars in a grossly funny way. Angie insists Littlewood touch his breast implants and at one point forcibly buries his head in them. This is made all the more amusing as Benson looks like he is in his late fifties. Benson however allows us to feel sympathy for these old men, who despite lacking Gerred's youthful good looks are all desperate for a love of their own, which they feel powerless of ever finding due to insecurities about their old age.  One of Benson's characters, a loud American named Chico attempts to find love through rent boys by buying them gifts, he pretends they are his boyfriends but this desperation only leads him to tragedy.

Gerred represents the young upstart who has the youth and looks that Benson's characters wistfully long for. When Gerred enters the stage to sing songs that reflect the lives of the characters that Benson performs, the lights change from the constant bright white of the shop floor to a seedy red. Gerred dramatically swaggers across the stage confidently, exuding sexually charged malice and sings a passionate Pop Idol-esque rendition of a famous song. It feels incredibly melodramatic and creates an amusing spectacle that may not have been their intention.

As Dirty White Boy is set in a clothes shop it seems fitting to discuss the choice of costume. Benson, whose role requires him to quickly adapt to each character's style easily, wears a white shirt unbuttoned at the top and grey trousers. He adds particular garments, such as a grey trilby and silk scarf, to create a touch of class for an old eccentric queen. Pink heels, handbag and wide brimmed hat create Angie the transsexual, while Chico, the brash American wears dark sunglasses and a lurid jacket. All Benson's costumes contribute to the excessive, theatrical nature of the characters and their desperate desire to stand out. Littlewood, in contrast wears a simple shirt and trousers with elegant shoes; he looks every inch the smart, casual shop owner. Gerred wears tight black trousers with lots of zips, braces when he is bare chested and an array of tight white vests and tops, in line with the sexual power his character exerts over the audience.

The music for the most part is pop, such as Gorillaz and Madonna and helps to locate the era of the late Noughties when the play is set.

Dirty White Boy as the title suggests is definitely not wholesome fun for all the family, but rather a light hearted, enjoyable play that is genuinely funny and intimate. You enter into Littlewood's view of Soho, defined by his sexuality, which Benson expertly brings to life. Despite running the risk of embellishing gay stereotypes, the writing is clearly sympathetic to its subject matter and by the end you feel that you have met a colourful, intriguing array of people. Gerred's presence serves as a Dorian Grey reminder of the beauty of youth which Benson's characters all envy and long to possess.  Littlewood gives the audience an insight into the superficiality and self consciousness of the gay scene, but at the same time displays the open natured personalities and richness of character that congregate in the streets of Soho.

 

Trafalgar Studios
14 Whitehall
London
SW1A 2DY

 Box Office 0844 871 7632

Performing Monday to Saturday at 7.45pm and Saturday at 3pm.

Ticket Prices: £20.00 (£15.00 concessions)

www.ambassadortickets.com

or Trafalgar Studios

 

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