Willy Hudson’s heart-filled, charming and hysterical one man show storms the stage at Summerhall and sheds light on the hugely under-discussed areas of gay sexual politics with deft wit and incredible heart.
Sheds light on the hugely under-discussed areas of gay sexual politics with deft wit and incredible heart
In Bottom, we join our beleaguered and anxious storyteller Willy hiding in his own bathroom during a third date gone wrong and from this, shall we say, 'unique' starting point he shares with us his thoughts on love, coming out, sex, and most importantly of all, Beyoncé. The show's central talking point relates to the terminology used largely by gay men in describing the dominant and submissive partners during sex, the 'top' and the titular 'bottom' respectively. Hudson takes aim at these categories and shows just how dehumanising and even harmful it can be to reduce someone to just one aspect of their complicated personality and very being. This discussion becomes a jumping off point from which the show touches on the issues plaguing a generation of young gay men. Sexual anxiety, poverty, rampant substance abuse and, worst of all, a crushing sense of loneliness in a period that’s supposed to be the best time in history for them be gay.
It is a testament to Hudson’s caliber as a performer that he’s able to juggle all of these rather weighty and important issues and yet still make the show side-splittingly funny. His easy, awkward charm and rather bumbling stage persona instantly endear the audience to him, and make what could otherwise be a rather dour show full of life, vibrance and humour. Songs, asides to the audience and a rather intense dance sequence all break up the narrative and do their best to bring the audience into Willy’s mind set and get us to grapple with the issues he struggles with. Indeed, the show bridges the gap between audience and performer, with frequent interactions, including a very memorable gag at the show's beginning, making us all active participants in Willy’s narrative. By the end, Hudson has achieved the impressive feat of making the audience feel like he is a good friend, and thus every heartbreak and set back he has had to endure stings us all the more and makes his eventual final speech feel all the more triumphant.
The show does stumble here and there: certain gags don’t quite hit as well as others and the show's more interpretive and abstract elements, like an extended dance scene in the third act, can sometimes outstay their welcome and distract from the productions positives - that of Hudson’s charming line delivery and rapport with the audience.
These are, on the whole, minor quibbles, and in the end Bottom is an incredibly touching piece of theatre that moved me in ways I didn’t expect it to. By bravely touching on a taboo subject Hudson is opening up a much needed dialogue, and I encourage everyone, gay or straight, to head to Summerhall to join that conversation.