Ascending the back stairs of the Marlborough to be greeted by the towering and magnificently coiffed Dr Sharon Husbands, doesn't quite give an accurate taste of what follows. Her light, breezy and gently dirty compering would sit well in any number of traditional cabaret, drag and glamour nights but what she actually introduces, and has produced, is a far more novel invention.
A lovely, soothing and indulgent piece of intellectual fun
Naked Boys Reading is exactly, as in the proverbial tin, that.
Instead of boys, she presents an intimate line up of five “men next door”. Young and vintage, thicker and thinner, and somewhat bearded as you would expect from a show more normally at home in Dalston and on holiday in Brighton. Don't worry, they are not everyone's “men next door”. More the type of next door that push property prices up.
It's quite possible that a proportion of the audience were expecting something rather more titillating than five thought provoking and heart tugging literary texts on the nature of femininity.
They ought to have read the advert more carefully. This is a high brow literary salon that just happens to involve full frontal nudity and hosted by a drag queen in a dark and rather humid theatre.
Naked Boy number three could have illuminated them on the difference between Nude and Naked with his reading of John Berger's Way of Seeing. This seminal text on Visual Culture provided the academic meat of the performance and was the only reading to stray into performance as he cheekily recreated the poses of women in the paintings of the 'Old Master's’.
Intelligently curated by Adrienne Trouscott, no stranger to getting her kit off, you will definitely have seen her poster in the first five minutes of being at the Brighton Fringe this year. The selection of texts is a poignant journey. It punches far above its expected educational and emotional weight and ranges through Bernadette Peters, Leslie Feinberg's powerful Stone Butch Blues and the impossibly tragi-cute early portion of Justin Vivian Bond's My Childhood – backwards in heels. A little known work by Audre Lorde The Uses of the Erotic was an arresting call to connect ourselves on a more authentic level in the face of the anodyne, sex saturated culture we have created. All were read beautifully by readers well matched to their texts, both physically and in their delivery. This is a show to exercise your thoughts but without attempting to be over-challenging or falling into pretension. Be warned: despite being listed as an hour show this easily ran to 95 minutes. Although mostly engaging, at this time slot, an hour would have been perfect. Not a mistake to let happen again during a Fringe performance when listed timings are important to the audience.
This is a lovely, soothing and indulgent piece of intellectual fun that would be perfect to get some conversations going later on in the evening.