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GuyMart – a new musical at Waterloo East Theatre

If anyone tells you they are on the ‘Apps’ then you instantly know what they mean. The little applications on their phone that promise love, romance or just a plain old hook-up but more often than not fail to deliver on all fronts. Tinder, Grindr, Growler, Bigger City, etc are all there waiting to tempt the lovelorn, or just horny, to download them, set up a profile and put themselves on the market. Most of them have been around for a long while now and many are starting to look tired and out of date. Maybe it’s time for some wannabe Zuckerberg or Musk to start thinking about the future and where the apps go next. That’s precisely what Toughnut Theatre have done as they take their musical GuyMart to the Waterloo East Theatre.

GuyMart - a new musical In the future, the Apps are dead, and in their place, we have GuyMart, an adult supermarket for men seeking men. The store, managed by Alphie (Jack Jacobs) and camp as Christmas sidekick Freddie (Nick Sedgewick) caters to many tastes and down its aisles the discerning shopper can pick from a whole range of the male population to take home and, well you hopefully don’t need me to draw a picture. Taking a leap into the unknown is Matt (Daniel Walford) a young, impressionable single man who believes that GuyMart may be the place where he will find the love and romance he craves. But is it? Or is GuyMart just like the Apps it replaced, full of men for whom romance means you let them stay over until breakfast? As he is put into stock, Matt must take his chances with the other merchandise. As he sits on the shelf Matt wanders what will become of him. Maybe new customer Joe (Viktor Andonov) is the answer.

George Lacey and Richard Seaman’s GuyMart had its debut at the King’s Head Theatre in the Summer, and I have to say that on the surface it’s not a bad show. Matt’s story is one that many gay men will be able to relate to, as they search for love among the Apps. You know you shouldn’t switch them on but somehow, they draw you in again, playing on your sense of hope over experience, believing that each encounter is more than a meaningless hook-up and getting rebuffed at every turn. There are some very nice touches in the writing – particularly with the characters of Alfie and Freddie who are not necessarily what or who they seem at the start.

However, I found myself thinking way too much about the whole set-up of GuyMart and their business model. And I must be honest, it didn’t make sense to me. How did they make money? Normally when you buy something at a supermarket, that’s it. But most of the customers here were looking for something temporary. Did they take the item home then bring them back the next day and trade them in, getting a discount on a new person? And since GuyMart were housing and, presumably, feeding the ‘stock’, not to mention paying Alphie and Freddie wages, how did those costs affect the bottom line? Then there was Matt himself. I couldn’t and still don’t understand what drew him into the supermarket or made him believe he could find love there? Was he really that naïve?

So yes, I had major problems with the premise of the show, but what about the songs and performances I hear you ask. These were pretty good. Unfortunately, I was sitting near a speaker and at times, the sound of the band did drown out the singing somewhat. However, I really liked the opening number “It’s Called GuyMart” and “Lost in the Aisles”. I did have a minor issue “the Aisle Song” which seemed to mention all the gay tribes with the exception of ‘older’ or ‘chubs. Good to know even in the future these two groups have no hope.

The performances were all very strong and the cast not only performed well as individuals but supported each other throughout.

Walford really shone as Matt. He not only had a great stage presence and good singing voice but also displayed facial expressions and body language that really connected with everything the character went through and made each moment in his journey very believable. But to be fair there wasn’t a poor performer in the cast, and all of them really delivered not only the songs but, especially in the opening number Becky Pennell’s choreography.

All told, there is a lot to like about GuyMart. The set is funny and works, George Lacey’s direction is astute and lively, and the performances are all really good. Unfortunately, whilst it felt like there was a lot of potential, the story didn’t really work for me. I felt there were too many plot holes and once I started picking at them in my mind, I lost my belief in the tale being told and a certain amount of interest in the lives of the characters. Ultimately, GuyMart is a show that is rather like the Apps it is replacing, fun and good on the surface, but don’t dig too deep.

3 Star Review

Review by Terry Eastham

Get ready for a new kind of shopping experience, full of fun, sex, and romance… but at what cost?

GuyMart imagines gay hookup apps as a supermarket, where men are able to find their next sexual partner. Follow young and single Matt as he discovers this strange world for the first time, taking his place on the shelves as stock.

This is a fresh look at hookup culture, exploring the effects it can have on young, vulnerable gay men.

Expect plenty of laughs and toe tapping songs along the way… but tread carefully, or you’ll get lost in the aisles.

CAST:
Viktor Andonov
Jack Jacobs
Nick Sedgwick
Daniel Walford

Creative team:
Book & Lyrics – George Lacey
Music – Richard Seaman
Direction – George Lacey
Musical Direction – Richard Seaman

Toughnut Theatre presents
GuyMart – a new musical
by George Lacey and Richard Seaman
2 – 12 Nov 2023
https://www.waterlooeast.co.uk/

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