Queereteria TV at Above the Stag Theatre
Singer Andy Bell, one half of synth-pop duo Erasure, decided a few years ago to create an alter ego, a character named Torsten and to make him the protagonist of a show with accompanying soundtrack in 2014, followed by a sequel in 2016. Queereteria TV is the third production of this series and is set in a dystopian future where a group of gay performers take over an abandoned club to broadcast a remake of their favourite show.
A diva presenter takes over and Torsten sings about his past. The structure of the show is essentially made of snippets of TV sketches in slapstick style followed by one of Torsten’s songs. The singing sometimes involves two young dancers performing lyrical duos that sit very awkwardly with the deliberately crude nature of the show. All dialogues and much of the action revolve around sexual acts and toilet humour. Unfortunately, the vulgarity is not backed up by comedy, and for the most part it feels like watching pre-teens who have been given permission to use swear words and say dirty things for the first time as a one-off event – and abusing the opportunity.
Mimicking TV shows on stage rarely works, but when the storyline is so feeble and the cast seem to lack focus and direction, it can only result in one clumsy interaction after another. The story of a group of people taking advantage of an empty stage to play around and be silly seems to reflect what the cast does. It looks like they gathered casually to have fun together rather than to convey anything to the audience. However, they do not even seem to be enjoying themselves so much and are often just going through the motions, sometimes literally reading from the script.
Bell declared in an interview that it’s the first time they’ve had “so much interest from those outside gay circles for this play. And it’s important not to segregate gay theatre away.” It is a shame then that the opportunity to attract a larger audience has been missed as there is nothing about the show that one can take away. Universality is one of the things that makes theatre powerful, but this play has such a narrow focus that it would be difficult to imagine its scope. Maybe the problematic point is to call it theatre when, in fact, it is cabaret material and would perhaps fit the purpose well if presented as such.
Photo: PBG Studios
Queereteria TV is at Above the Stag Theatre from 10th April until 18th April 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.