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Boys in the Buff at the Drayton Arms Theatre

Have you ever thought about what you would like to change about your body? I can hold my hand up and say yes to that. I would change everything from my rather dodgy little toes, through to the hair on my head which started deserting me when I was 21.  Consequently, rather like Dracula, I tend to avoid mirrors. But why do I feel like this?  Why does my body not live up to my own image of what it should be?  Maybe the answer to this lies in Lambco
Productions’ show Boys in the Buff, the festive offering at the Drayton Arms Theatre.

Boys in the BuffThe show’s MC, Diana (Katarina Zofia) wastes no time in welcoming us and introducing her boys – Max (Aaron Blackburn), Dan (Aaron Wood), Phil (Louis Van Leer) and Richard (Samuel Howe-Barrett) – to us. They are all so young, handsome, with toned bodies you can’t help but wonder how they are going to be able to relate to the rest of us. But it becomes obvious very quickly that, like the rest of us, the boys worry about their bodies and Phil, in particular, seems to be regretting that he didn’t think too much about the “In the Buff” part of the show’s title before signing the contract. However, the show must go on and over the course of the next couple of hours, Diana and her boys tell their stories of body envy, shaming and bullying, finally making us all realise that despite Michelangelo – the man responsible for setting the body standard – all bodies are different, and all have their good and bad points, and that is something to be accepted and relished.

This is the fourth time I’ve seen Boys in the Buff during my reviewing life. And every time it has been different.  Writer Chris Burgess keeps each production fresh and new with new songs, re-arranged music and changes to the script to reflect the world today. And of course, each new cast brings their own interpretation of the characters and their stories.

Speaking of the cast, while I’m sure the casting process is fun, it’s vital to get a group of actors that can not only bond over the production and their part in it but are totally at ease with each other. This cast really does achieve that. You feel that Diana genuinely loves her boys and they, in turn, not only love her but also each other in a truly fraternal and supportive way.

Boys in the Buff is a true ensemble piece that relies on everyone playing their part to perfection, and this team totally delivers.  Whether they are performing a lively true musical theatre number like “Keep it Under Our Hats”, a painful emotional song like “Body Shame Game” or a big solo number like “Big Hearted Mama” – still my favourite song in the show – every note, emotion and movement is delivered with style and total commitment.

Robbie O’Reilly’s direction and choreography is spot on, not only making full use of the stage but also producing a very impressive level of storytelling through dance. Richard Lambert’s lighting really enhances the show, and he’s the first person I’ve seen to actually get remotely operated follow-spots to work as they should, so they give that added depth of lighting to the actors’ performance.

Boys in the Buff may not seem the most traditional of Christmas shows, but it has all the glamour, glitter, glitz and sheer joie de vivre of a pantomime but instead of an unbelievable tale of a prince/princess being rescued by another prince/princess, this show reminds us that our body may not be perfect but it’s the only one we have, and that is something to celebrate.

And for those of you who are wondering if the boys really do what the show suggests, all I can say is that in our house, the best presents are always unwrapped last.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

As Diana and her boys sing, dance and tell stories about self-confidence, body image, and society’s unreasonably high expectations on our appearance, they share personal stories and dare each other to reveal more of themselves as the evening progresses.

An alternative to a traditional pantomime, with adult themes, ‘Boys in the Buff’ is the perfect festive show for having some fun with your friends. You will leave with an enhanced self-worth, a song in your heart and share a few laughs along the way.

Creative Team:
script and songs by Chris Burgess
additional songs by Cathy Shostak
Director and Choreographer: Robbie O’Reilly
Designer: David Shields
Musical Director: Flynn Sturgeon
Orchestrations: Joe Louis Robinson
Lighting Designer: Richard Lambert
Producers: LAMBCO Productions and Peter Bull
Casting: Anne Vosser.

LAMBCO Productions and Peter Bull
present
Boys in the Buff

Drayton Arms Theatre
153 Old Brompton Rd,
London SW5 0LJ

15 December 2021 to 9 January 2022
Contains nudity – Suitable for 15+
https://www.thedraytonarmstheatre.co.uk/

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