Some fairly relaxed choreography gently introduces the clumsily-titled Do you have a Secret Crush (Sleeping with Straight Men)? in an opening scene in which the only words are those of the opening number of the cast recording of 9 to 5 The Musical, though I never quite got who was supposed to have left whom for their secretary. If there were to be an interval – the play is not quite long enough to justify one – the second half would be infinitely darker than the first.
In fact, it is surprisingly troubling, and the show had me lulled into a sense of false security before things became, plot-wise, unpleasant to say the least. In the camp and bouncy nature of Stanley (Chris Britton), a Sexy Young Thing, and drag queen ‘Sally’ (Dave Lynn), there was a feeling that we’ve been here before.
Indeed, drag and theatre go as far back at least as far as Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Here, we have the nightclubs and the bars and the chatting up: one could be forgiven for thinking that all LGBT+ people seem to do with their spare time is attempt to sleep with as many people as possible, with no regard for possible implications for enticing people already in a relationship, just for sexual pleasure.
I found it interesting that this play chooses to focus the root causes of the actions of Lee (Richard Watkins) almost purely on his apparent homophobia. No attempt, it seems to me, is made to consider the mental health issues in the true story on which the play is based. There is a subtle and reasoned commentary presented through the sensationalist talk show hosted by Jill Johnson (Ruth Petersen) about how such programmes bully and humiliate some of their guests.
What a pity, then, that the play then seeks to preach to the choir (so to speak) in a scene which comes across as a cross between a lecture and a psychological intervention. Predictably, it does nothing to alter Lee’s perspective. But before all this, there are some laugh-out- loud punchlines in the jollity of everyday activity – a nice reminder that positives can be found whatever station of life we find ourselves in. Louie Westwood as Brian gives a suitably hammed up performance, and there’s a nice touch of fourth-wall breaching courtesy of Jill Johnson as we become, for a brief period, her chat show’s studio audience.
Refreshingly, the show goes deeper than a show with a drag queen and daytime talk show host could reasonably be expected to. The choice of music used throughout the play underlines the era in which it is set – let’s just say whenever someone calls someone else they use a rotary dial telephone.
The company is well cast, even if the sound levels were not always perfectly balanced. I had some trouble deciphering some of the lyrics Sally was singing during one number; later, when the accompanying music was arguably too quiet, I found Dave Lynn’s vocals to be rather charming and appealing. I’d go to a Miss Sally drag show if I was into that sort of thing. There are some stand out supporting performances from Helen Stirling’s Mom and Sarah Day’s Karen, the latter being the innocent victim of circumstances beyond her control – an aptly emotional late scene was poignant and powerful.
The light-hearted you-only-live-once outlook contrasts with some devastating consequences that follow. There’s a selfishness in being carefree and the pursuit of personal gratification displayed in the play that certainly gave me something to ponder on. Though not exactly family viewing, this short play proves a satisfying evening for those who like their shows multi-layered.
Review by Chris Comaweng
Who hasn’t had a secret crush at some point in their lives?
Stanley certainly has. A young man living with his mom in a mobile home on a trailer park, he dreams of escaping to a big city, becoming famous and falling in love. His dreams are a far cry from living in Pontiac, Michigan, and running a follow-spot in a local cabaret nightclub.
When an advert comes on television for guests to be flown 1st class to New York City to reveal their secret crush he jumps at the chance, jumps in the limo, jumps on a plane and jumps himself centre frame into the bright lights of the TV interview couch.
The comedy described as “moistly hilarious“!
But is this what he really wants? Can TV chat shows go too far? Is it a good idea to reveal your secrets on national TV? In this hilarious comedy based on true events come see what happens when Stanley does just that!
Written by Ronnie Larsen
Directed by Robert McWhir
Produced by LAMBCO Productions
Choreographer Robbie O’Reilly
Designer Jennifer Browne
Lighting Design Richard Lambert
Musical Director Inga Davis-Rutter
Costume Designer Paul Nicholas-Dyke
Photography and Graphic Design PND Photography
Sally Dave Lynn
Stanley Chris Britton
Lee Richard Watkins
Brian Louie Westwood
Mom Helen Stirling
Jill Johnson Camilla Simson
Judy Lucy Dobson
Karen Ruth Petersen
This play is presented on the 21st anniversary of an event that should never be forgotten!
Tuesday 2nd August to Sunday 21st August 2016 at the Lost Theatre