The Boys Upstairs at Above the Stag
The atmosphere in the foyer bar of Above the Stag is one of the perpetual weekend. Below the rainbow flag in the UK’s only LGBTQ theatre, attendees make merry before wandering into the auditorium clutching whole bottles of wine. Jason Mitchell’s The Boys Upstairs perfectly occupies this ambience: irreverent, wild and outrageous as it is.
This is the UK premiere of the play that has been enjoyed off-Broadway since 2009. Josh, Seth and Ashley are best friends: all young, gay and living in a trendy apartment in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. The show loops their cocktail-sodden pre-night out sessions and hungover mornings. They speculate on their hot neighbour’s sexuality; they discuss their love lives and one night stands; they bicker, celebrate and console.
Flamboyant Ashley ensures the camp factor is turned up to ten, sashaying about the room, raising many a glass “to being utterly fabulous” and throwing in plenty of double entendre (“would you like me to hold your tool?”). Frequently the humour reaches graphic levels, with lots of reference to anal and one sustained anecdote about poo.
The Boys Upstairs boasts all the diversion and comfy familiarity of an episode of Friends but with no deeper substance. The plot is more a series of events that never stray from the superficial, with only slight fluctuations in pace and intensity.
Acting that begins a little unconvincingly warms up as the show proceeds. US accents are employed with varying success. Joe Leather’s Ashley gives the most complete performance, while special credit must go to Hugh O’Donnell, who masterfully takes on the parts of the various love interests in assorted wigs, most of whom are Ashley’s drunken conquests. The most amusing of these is Gabie, the musical theatre enthusiast who speaks entirely via musical quotes. This earns huge appreciation from the audience.
A gay, male audience will find much to be amused by in this show. Filled to the brim with observations, language and pet peeves, (eg. “men who name their dicks”) that reference gay culture, the show may have its target audience smiling knowingly but may leave other demographics at times slightly confused, yet still thoroughly absorbed.
The Boys Upstairs is on at the Above the Stag Theatre from 14th January until 15th February 2015, for further information or to book visit here.