For Only an Hour

I can guarantee that you aren’t ready for For Only An Hour, the brain- and body- and life- and love- child of dancer Phil Sanger. I don’t know that there’s any art out there that could prepare you. But I can equally guarantee that it is the most creative piece of work I have ever seen.

Sanger is a powerful dancer, a beautiful singer, and an easy stage presence

Sanger ricochets around genres and disciplines throughout the hour-long piece, swinging in an effortless instant from lip-syncing to capital-D Dance to storytelling to lowercase-d dance to song to comedy to history and back again. For Only An Hour is steeped in the history and atmosphere of queer performance, and like all the best of that genre, refuses to simplify its brilliant collage of every art form you can imagine into something that can be catagorised or pinned down. From a beautiful childhood memory to a (no spoilers) iconic dance routine with devastating consequences – and no, not the ones you’re imagining, I guarantee it – For Only An Hour traverses the length and breadth of Sanger’s experience as a flamboyant gay man from Barnsley as well as the limits of every medium he chooses.

I could tell you that he never slows down, but that would be a lie – it’s just that the moments he does are so perfectly paced that you it doesn’t feel like it. I could tell you the smile never slips from his face but that would be misleading – it’s just that even in the midst of the worst moments, there is that bitter optimism that queer art (and life) all but requires. I could say his energy never drops, but that would do him a disservice – it’s just that the physical exertion and exhaustion is as intimately necessary to the piece as the exuberance and physical expression that brings it about.

And while Sanger is alone on stage, filling a vast studio all on his own, he is not alone in this endeavor at all. Joining him are lighting designer Jen Wren and composer Donna McKevitt, whose work contains and facilitates some of the most hauntingly beautiful moments of the show. It’s almost possible to forget that Sanger isn’t literally controlling the cut together recordings of classic songs and bits of old diva interviews and scenes with his body, which makes sense given that he created the tracks himself.

Sanger is a powerful dancer, a beautiful singer, and an easy stage presence which I believe would let anyone, of any sexuality or gender, of any age, of any walk of life, of any level of experience with queerness or dance or performance art, into the same rapturous experience I and the rest of the audience had. His closing number, stripped of the beautiful costumes and the continuous motion and the intense lighting and every other element besides Sanger and his voice and his presence, was a slightly rewritten parody of the song which supplied the title, released by Scott Walker in in 1968. It’s funny, it’s jaunty – it’s not sad. But I sat there, tears in my eyes. It felt like coming home.

Reviews by Alex Bailey Dillon

Assembly @ Dance Base

Habitat

★★★★★
Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows

Brave Space

★★★★★
Summerhall

Nomad

★★★
Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows

Aloft Presents Sanctuary

★★★★
House of Oz

Common Dissonance

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Teviot

A Shark Ate My Penis: A History of Boys Like Me

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

‘Sanger is one of the most versatile artists on the British stage, as this performance amply demonstrates’ (Dance Europe, 2018). Danced to a hilarious medley of Angela Lansbury, Delia Smith and Bette Midler this one-man romp is a pseudo-glamorous jaunt through pop culture, queer art, childhood dreams and life-changing surgery. It may be entertaining, but it demands a punishing vulnerability of the performer with surprises at every turn. Supported by haunting music by Donna McKevitt, glittering queer garments by Andrew Walker, mentoring by Wendy Houstoun and a unique improvised lighting design by Jen Wren.

Most Popular See More

SIX

From £42.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £46.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Mousetrap

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets