The Vault Festival continues to amaze and entertain with a whole range of shows and productions that cover every taste and interest. Virtually everything I have seen in the years I have been covering the Vault Festival has been somewhere between good and awesome – in fact, only one show comes to mind that I really didn’t like. However, occasionally there is a production that totally takes your breath away and leaves you with a profound sense of seeing – and maybe participating in – something exceptionally special. A case in point is Dan Ireland-Reeves’ Bleach which runs at the festival until the 10th February.
Tyler Everett is a lad who has a degree under his belt and has, like so many others, come to London to make his fortune. Unfortunately for Tyler, his life is not like Dick Whittington’s and he is currently living in a small – or compact and bijou in estate agent speak – bedsit. His initial entry into the employment world sees him starting a career as a waiter in Chinatown. Realising that, for so many reasons, this is not for him and being a young, outgoing gay man, Tyler moves across the road to Soho and becomes a rent boy – for those not versed in the vernacular, this is a male prostitute who has sex with other men. Since Tyler is physically very attractive, has a winning personality and rather fluid morals, he soon flourishes in his chosen profession and has both regular and random clients that he looks after and keeps happy. With money to spend, a very active sex life and a place of his own with no debts, Tyler is doing pretty well for himself. Then, one Saturday night, in a penthouse in Kensington, everything changes and Tyler finds himself having to face the realities of his life in the big city.
Written, directed, staged and performed by Dan Ireland-Reeves, Bleach is one of the most powerful plays I have seen for a long time. Normally, I’m not keen when writers direct their own work, but with Ireland-Reeves, you have the perfect quadruple threat as he takes the audience into Tyler’s life. From his first gay stirrings at school, through to meeting the love of his life, and onwards to the person he is today, older and wiser perhaps but still, in some ways a young man afraid of the city he now calls home. At the end of the sixty-minute run, I really felt like I had met, been introduced to, and become a confidant of Tyler’s. All in all, this is a really compelling performance by Ireland-Reeves who makes Tyler such a real and understandable person with a story to tell.
The play is performed in the centre of a white square – white is a very predominant colour throughout – and my initial thought was that this square was a metaphor for the way Tyler was trapped into the life of a rent boy. But, as the play went on, it became, in my mind, something different. Almost like the one place, he could be free to be himself. So instead of being his prison, it transformed into Tyler’s safe space. Unfortunately, I don’t know who did the sound and lights but both worked exceptionally well with the setting to draw the audience into Tyler’s world.
Sometimes, in my head, I start composing my review before seeing a show. This is usually because I know the context of the story – either from the press release or the notes on the web site – and have started thinking of words and phrases that will be appropriate. I had started this process before the lights went down on Bleach but the system broke down as the play itself took me completely by surprise. At the end – and worry not this review is spoiler free – I was literally sat holding my breath, not only at the final part of the story but, in a way, in the part I “played” in it by being there and seeing, but doing nothing. Overall, Bleach is a compelling and totally absorbing play that, in my case, really connected with me on a deeply personal level. I was both surprised and shocked at my emotional response to the show which, I believe is one of the absolute gems of this year’s Vault Festival.
Review by Terry Eastham
Tyler Everett knows how to take it like a man; he’s made a career out of it. He’s rejected London’s corporate world in favour of screwing his way through the city each night. Up to now he’s been doing pretty well for himself, enjoying a hedonistic life of men, sex and money. But on a fully-booked Saturday night, Tyler’s bubble’s about to burst and he’ll discover the real cost of living in the worlds most exciting city.
Bleach is a darkly humorous, soul-jolting new one-man show about sex, violence and city living. Direct from the critically acclaimed European tour, Bleach is sure to make your pulse race and your mind churn.
6th – 10th Feb 2019
Duration: 1 Hour