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Candy written by Tim Fraser – Park Theatre

If one of your first lines in a play “is love at first shite” you have to be careful don’t you? You have to make sure that it’s not a “a play, at first, shite” I would think. Because it really had me wondering in the opening exchanges, though, I’m pleased to report, whilst it takes a while to get up to full steam, Candy is a superb drama.

Candy - Photo Ali Wright.
Candy – Photo Ali Wright.

It took a Ray Davies-style epiphany for me to get inside the play. The Ray Davies, that is, of The Kinks fame and his classic 1970 pop standard Lola. Lola was the prompt for me, the key-code, to enter the cobweb-bedecked catacombs of writer Tim Fraser’s labyrinthine mind. Like Lola, Candy is a simple enough idea, but one, again like Lola, that has more layers to it than a Grand Canyon escarpment.

The Davies-penned song was way ahead of its time but that time is now, very much now, and Fraser’s play brings the Lola motif to fruition, to full frontal fruition, in an edgy, provocative and disconcerting manner. And whereas, back in 1970, we sat around and scratched our heads and said of Lola “Well, what’s that all about?” now, here, ensconced in Generation whatever-letter-we-are-now-using, we say “ We know what this is all about: and thanks for the further insights”. So for Lola read Candy. And in this diverse world of pronouns and trans and gender-neutral toilets we have the voice, the siren voice, of our mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, putting flesh on the bones of drag, and dragging us, kicking and screaming into the reality behind the mask.

Michael Waller is Will, our confused innocent at large, who falls in love with a vision and can’t get his head round it. Waller is spookily effective in the role. Caustic, funny, sentimental, regretful and ultimately completely emotionally spent, as he tries to figure out the feelings, the urges, the reasoning behind that indefinable sensation – attraction. Director Nico Rao Pimparé uses a cabaret-style setting which enables Waller to get up close and personal with his audience, even sitting at some front-row tables to enhance the intimacy of the piece. Waller is funny and serious, stern and frivolous, crass and emotional and, ultimately, sentimental and violently self-critical. As a solo show, this is a tour de force by Waller with Pimparé squeezing every last drop of searing hot emotion from this extraordinarily talented actor. Will engages us, fascinates us, but as we recognise that he’s out there, gingerly making his way along Last Chance Ledge, we know that he’s just as likely to make us laugh as kick us in the crotch. We may leave the theatre bruised and bemused but we’re also informed and charmed.

Waller also produces the show for his Reboot Theatre Company (co-founded with Athena Bound and Faidon Loumakis) and there is a sympathetic and understated lighting design by Jonathan Chan. Stephen Waller supplies the music.

There have been significant changes, around the Park Theatre, to Finsbury Park since I was last here three and a half years ago which mirror the changes, over a similar time scale, to society’s approach and understanding of trans-gender issues. Whilst it was originally written as a much shorter piece in 2017, Candy matches a prevailing mood of recognition and understanding of the whole gender debate. Illuminating and entertaining, it’s a play that is well worth seeing.

5 Star Rating

Review by Peter Yates

Opening up conversations about crisis of identity and exploring sexuality in a world consumed by toxic masculinity, Tim Fraser’s debut play sees a single Northern man fall in love with a beautiful singer… who just so happens to be his best friend in drag.

Company information
Written by Tim Fraser Directed by Nico Rao Pimparé
Lighting design by Jonathan Chan Sound designer by Anna Short
Original music by Stephen Waller Set and costume consultant Alys Whitehead
Produced by Reboot Theatre Company

Cast
Will Michael Waller

Reboot Theatre Company in association with Park Theatre presents:
Candy
Written by Tim Fraser | Directed by Nico Rao Pimparé
Park Theatre, Park90, 22 August – 9 September 2023

Twitter: @RebootCompany @CandyThePlay | #CandyThePlay | Instagram: @RebootTheatreLondon @candytheplay | rebootcompany.org | candytheplay.com

Twitter: @ParkTheatre | Facebook: ParkTheatreLondon | Instagram: ParkTheatreLondon | www.parktheatre.co.uk

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Author

  • Peter Yates

    Peter has a long involvement in the theatrical world as playwright, producer, director and designer. His theatre company Random Cactus has taken many shows to the Edinburgh Fringe, the London Fringe and elsewhere and he has been associated with the Wireless Theatre Company since its inception where his short play Lie Detector can be heard: Wireless Theatre Company.

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