Kings Cross (Remix)

I'm always interested in the extent to which the publicity for a performance matches the reality of the production; how the promise materialises on the stage. Created and performed by Tom Marshman, Kings Cross (Remix), "recounts tales from the LGBTQ community about the raucous underground scene around Kings Cross in the 1980s". It is "Inspired by the lyrics to the iconic Pet Shop Boys song and developed from discussions over tea and recorded interviews". It "uses deft gesture, voice, movement and costume to recreate the gay scene as it was in those days."

Much of the very clear delivery gave the feeling of still being seated around the tea table hearing those initial discussions that gave birth to this play.

The work is partly verbatim theatre, using stories from people who lived in the area during the period. Their tales are first-hand accounts and as such possess authenticity in describing various aspects of the era. Three characters form the focus of these reports, whose recollections are interwoven and supplemented by Marshman's own material. In the recordings he successfully lip-syncs several of the passages and at other times simply reports his characters' words.

Closet encounters are related, the rise of support groups and the Gay Switchboard explained, music is heard, Thatcher and Reagan merit a mention along with Clause 28 and HIV/AIDS inevitably pervades all in the context of much partying, which we are told "celebrates a raucous time in the life of central London where sexuality was for exploring".

So why was I not successfully transported to this age and allowed to experience the "raucous"? "Kings Cross" as a stimulus doesn't provide much to work on, other than the title and the sexual orientations of the Pet Shop Boys, made even less relevant by using the Tracey Thorn version. This is not a play about people moving from the north of England and finding their way around and in life after arriving at the eponymous station, though is possesses some of the dreary drudgery they must have encountered.

Much of the very clear delivery gave the feeling of still being seated around the tea table hearing those initial discussions that gave birth to this play. Marshman's style is conversational, casual, relaxed and informal in respect of both the spoken material and the actions, be they dance or mime; all lethargic chat rather than dynamic performance. If there is emotion it is recollected with considerable tranquility. There are the occasional moments of minimal humour that break some of duller didactic, but there is no sense of intense passion, vibrancy or excess; rather a lack of energy and drive.

For a meander down memory lane this play has tales of some interest. Yet the 80s were a period of high and lows, peaks and troughs which this rather monotone monologue fails to reflect in performance. Shout, scream, cry, do something to invigorate this lacklustre lament and raise some of that promised "raucous " to lift this somewhat tedious troll.

As Marshman gyrated to " Do you want to funk with me?" I felt the answer would have to be "no". This Kings Cross still needs a remix.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

Kings Cross (Remix) uncovers the hidden histories of LGBTQ communities in London during the 1980s. Tom Marshman uncovers those histories through memories of the Kings Cross area; an area that has undergone radical change since its day as a hub of LGBTQ communities, bars and culture.

Woven together from the stories of people who experienced it first hand, Tom’s show celebrates a raucous, riotous time in the life of central London where sexuality was for exploring, HIV was causing tragedy, and rights were to be fought for.

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