Above the Stag is – now that has two separate performance spaces – able to put on a dance production for the first time in its history. Boy Toy is a re-imagining of the well-known comic ballet Coppelia.
The possibilities the future holds for this dynamic pairing is very exciting
The entire piece has been conceived, directed and choreographed by William Spencer. Spencer has clearly got some very clever ideas and has certainly taken a lot of inspiration from Ballet Boyz and Matthew Bourne. Spencer has, however, pushed the boat out a bit further than Bourne’s work (with the possible exception of Dorian Gray) in terms of raunchiness, LGBT content, and sexual fantasies. One particular fight scene with a pair of dildos springs instantly to mind! Spencer describes the piece as a “homoerotic jazz ballet” and I feel that sums up this production very nicely indeed.
Featuring four performers Boy Toy tells the story of three young lads – Freddie, his boyfriend Simon, and Simon’s best friend Maximillan. Together they find a sex shop owned by the mysterious and perverted Dr C. All three later find themselves intrigued and enticed into the sex shop by the harness-wearing mannequin/sex doll on display in the window.
Above the Stag’s studio is transformed into a suitable dance space, with minimal, yet effective set. Its four ‘doors’ at the rear of the stage changing purpose, with some clever neon lighting displays, showing where in Soho the current scene is located.
Matthew Brazier shines on stage as Maximillan, with a very lively performance, and very enjoyable expressive facial features. His emotions were always very clear to understand and his elongated movements were exquisite. Lance Collins takes to the stage as Freddie in an extremely accomplished fashion. His bolshy, robust movements in the first scene give us a very clear impression as to his role in the on-stage couple. Full of bravado, yet also tenderness when needed, Collins was able to command the stage with a very magnetic performance indeed. Saul Kilcullen-Jarvis was an absolute joy to watch. His energy enthused the stage with passion and desire. In the second half of the play, when Kilcullen-Jarvis finds himself in the role of the mannequin his doll-like movements were perfect. In particular the sex scene between Freddie and Simon was the stand-out moment in the show for me. Both Saul and Lance really turned up the energy but it is Spencer’s choreography and direction along with Joseph Ed Tomas’s lighting design and Andrew Beckett’s set and costume design that really brought out the humour, love and power in equal measure in that climactic moment.
Callum Tempest is the fourth dancer in this production. As Dr C he gets to really show off his comic skills. His hunched over doctor with disturbing and menacing fantasies lurks in the shadow and background for much of the piece, except for a surprising scene where he pirouettes whilst wearing a flasher’s long coat! In the closing scenes Tempest is able to join the other performers and dance his way into our hearts.
Aaron Clingham is the Musical Director and Orchestrator for Boy Toy. Taking Léo Delibes original music and giving it a real jazzed up syncopated vibe full of percussion and synths. Spencer and Clingham clearly worked very well together in ensuring the Soho vibe of the show is able to weave its way into the score, where possible, to give the entire show one complete overarching concept. Sadly, there is not enough room for the orchestra to perform live and the quality, and volume, of the recording was dodgy at times but that is a minor criticism compared to the delightful experience the audience and I enjoyed.
Coming in at just over one hour without an interval, Boy Toy is a great debut for the addition of dance to Above the Stag’s programming. Those who have never seen a dance production before will find this to be a very enjoyable introduction to the genre. Dance aficionados will also see and appreciate the joy, humour and warmth Spencer and the rest of the team have been able to create and bring to the small studio theatre at Above the Stag; and the possibilities the future holds for this dynamic pairing is very exciting.