Damnation has never been so fun in Joe McNeice’s adaptation of Diva: Live from Hell. This one-man show is devilishly delightful in all that it does, a cabaret-style musical hellraiser that there is no way in the seven circles that anyone should miss.
We are taken to the ‘Seventh Circle’ cabaret, where Desmond Channing (Luke Bayer) tells us about the events leading up to his death, as he and the Ronald Reagan High School drama club prepare for their fall musical. Events take a dark turn when newcomer, Evan (Bayer) starts to replace him and take over the club. In this carefully crafted show, Desmond shows and tells us why there is no way in hell why he would just let that happen.
Creating hell on earth isn't easy, and McNeice's creativity and vision has brought the seventh circle to life. By recreating a mundane highschool backdrop that is underscored with a dark and almost industrial-like atmosphere that hangs over the action like smog, at no point during the show can we escape the hell-scape that lurks underneath. From Alexander Sage Oyen’s orchestrations to Alistair Lindsay’s lighting design, everything contains a hellish flair that every so often reminds us that we are in fact all roasting in the deepest pit (not literally, the Turbine Theatre has very good air conditioning).
Raising more than a little hell, Bayer is an inferno, powering everything around him with a demonic and contagious energy as if the hounds of hell themselves were snapping at his heels. He owns the stage, his presence stretching out into the auditorium and holding us in his infernal grasp throughout the show. Continuously interacting with the band and techies supporting him, it is amazing to watch Bayer work and control everything around him, literally going mad with the power. Bayer's voice turns every number into a showstopper, shedding the skins of the various characters as he goes. His descent into madness is so incremental and cleverly disguised that it isn’t noticeable until it is, becoming a veritable devil before our eyes. There is no room to question whether Desmond Channing is a reliable narrator, there is a devilish glint in Bayer’s eye throughout his performance that convinces us that he is telling us the entire truth.
A damn good time, Diva: Live from Hell is worth going to the ends of the earth for. Well, Battersea but close enough. Completely wicked from start to end, Dante dare miss this show.