Thursday, 20 August 2009

REVIEW: Credit Crunch Queen

The great thing about August is how laid back the theatre is in London: soft openings, short runs, and all sorts of fun things for theatre companies who can’t justify the costs of going to Edinburgh and for audiences who can’t justify the effort of going to Edinburgh either. In this case, it meant catching Jackie Skarvellis’s new play Credit Crunch Queen during its tryout at Pentameters before it transfers to the Stag this week.

Now, I consider an excuse to go to Pentameters to be a great thing: the staff are extremely friendly, they have a loyal audience of locals from inside and outside the industry, and the space has the right blend of run-down charm and hipness to make it an appealing location to watch a show. Sure the bar downstairs is expensive, but that’s why Tesco Express is across the street. Oh, and it’s a half hour walk from my house. Hard to beat that.

Except when you have this dead horse of a play. A rapid-fire response to the economic downturn, CCQ starts with high flying banker Brad Bradshaw being let go from his cushy city job before rapidly losing his live-in gold-digging girlfriend and flat. After quickly finding himself on the wrong side of the DWP, Brad moves in with a struggling (and awful) actress, ultimately being made over by one of her friends (played by John Campbell aka drag queen Ebb-on-Knee) and hitting the drag circuit to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, the idea is much funnier on paper than in practice. The main subplot, involving the actress whose name I can’t remember taking Brad’s dog Rambo (played by a rather attractive fellow in leather gear) through an X-Factor programme for pets brings the story to a crashing halt: it feels quickly written and tacked on as though Ms. Skarvellis realised that her original idea wouldn’t fill two acts. Given that the Pet Factor arc dominates the second act, a one-act would have been a better idea - especially given how long it takes to actually get to the title story of Brad’s entry into drag.

As such, what could have been a rags to new riches story or a fish out of water tale with the straight posh bloke entering the seedy gay club scene is instead a parade of flaccid jokes, saved only when Campbell camps it up and when Shonni Doulton appears as the health and safety obsessed DWP worker whom Brad attempts to dupe in the name of getting unemployment benefits. Much like the sentence above, the play uses a lot of words to say very little. And there is the rub: that of wasted potential. And therein comes the other August tradition: putting in anything to fill your house until post-Edinburgh tours come in.

Where: Above the Stag
When: Until early September. The website isn’t updated yet.
How Much: £12 at Pentameters. May be different at the Stag.
Concessions: £10 at Pentameters. May be different at the Stag.
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £2 for some eye candy and three funny scenes.
RZ Other Notes: None.

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