Boom Bang-a-Bang

May is here, so we are now in one of the highlights of the homosexual calendar – Eurovision. Above The Stag is commemorating this wonderful time of year by reviving a 1995 play by Jonathan Harvey (Beautiful Thing, Babies, Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club) entitled Boom Bang-a-Bang.

Boom Bang-a-Bang is a hysterical farce.

Set in a London flat Boom Bang-a-Bang tells the story of Lee, expertly portrayed by Adam McCoy, who is hosting a Eurovision watching party for his friends and his sister. However, fallouts, accusations and fights soon break out between his pals and it quickly turns into a fiasco.

McCoy has the tricky task in this production of playing the ‘straight man’ (so to speak) to which all the crazy things happen around. He is able to remain composed through all the melodrama and doesn’t descend to the madness which many of his co-performers have to. There is a very touching moment in Act Two where McCoy is alone on stage for a dialogue-free couple of minutes and is one of the more nuanced moments in the play.

Around McCoy are a gaggle of extreme caricatures. The first we meet is Lee’s neighbour Norman (Joshua Coley). Coley instantly lets us know that this play is to be viewed as an extreme comedy. He had the audience in laughter within seconds of his first appearance on stage and was very entertaining to watch. His eyebrows alone were some of the most expressive I have ever seen, particularly over the top of his round glasses. It was disappointing that Norman was not on stage more often.

Christopher Lane plays Steph and very quickly takes over the show. We all know someone like Steph, bitchy about everyone behind their back but equally unkind to their face. Steph is the one stirring up all the trouble and Lane puts in a very commanding performance. Every line and action was delivered with just the right level of sarcastic campness and seemed truly unapologetic for all his words and deeds. Lane is able to portray Steph as very pompous and exceptionally, purposefully over-the-top. We never got the chance to see the softer side of Steph and that's a shame as the character therefore became increasingly two-dimensional and unlikeable.

One character that Steph has an ongoing feud with is Lee’s sister Wendy. Wendy is played by Tori Hargreaves and is much more subtly played than others around her. There is a hidden depth behind every line and something mysterious always just below the surface. In the second half of the play, when her character was able to really let loose, it didn’t quite work as she became just as buffoonish as the rest of the cast but she was truly fascinating to watch in the beginning.

Sean Huddlestan, as Roy, took a while to find his groove but managed to relax into his character during the second half dancing around the stage and thoroughly having a good time. The final characters we meet are the much-talked about straight couple attending this soiree – Tania and Nick. Florence Odumosu makes the best entrance of all with her loudmouth performance of Tania and arrives into the already extreme character-heavy party like a whirlwind. Nick, despite the big build-up given for his arrival by the other characters, seemed to stumble into the party from a different play altogether. John Hogg gave an accomplished performance but was not able to really make any impression at all until Act Two. Despite Florence’s wonderful arrival both Tania and Nick got lost the mix as their characters were the only ones, besides Lee, who had any real offstage problems and relationships and sadly could not compete with the pantomime performances happening around them.

Andrew Beckett did a wonderful job with his direction and set design. The Studio space has been transformed into a nineties London apartment with a sofa in the centre of the stage, pointed towards the TV, and several doors leading off in other directions. The timing of all the comings and goings was well-executed and everything seemed to flow as naturally as possible for a party of this nature. Robert Draper had styled the cast well and Andy Hill’s lighting and sound design simple yet effective.

Boom Bang-a-Bang is a hysterical farce and if you enjoy Eurovision or want to reminisce about nineties house parties you will have a riot. The audience member next to me was singing along loudly whenever a Eurovision hit was heard above the arguments. The softer moments, however, regarding Lee’s recently deceased boyfriend seemed at odds with the rest of the play and were frustratingly more interesting than the entertaining circus that was this party. This is probably the reason this particular Jonathan Harvey play is not performed as often as his other work, but it is definitely worth seeing as you will undoubtedly be smiling and laughing throughout.

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The Blurb

by Jonathan Harvey

directed and designed by Andrew Beckett

A party descends gloriously into farce in this camp and insightful comedy.

Lee is nervous. He and his boyfriend Michael hosted the most fabulous Eurovision parties. Now Michael is dead, and Lee wants to honour his memory while proving he can manage by himself. But there’s a rival party in town! Will anybody come? Will they get on? Will they get on too well? Will there be too many straight people?
Top up your Buck’s fizz and settle in for a hilarious evening full of memorable and recognisable characters.

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