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LAMBCO Productions: Boys in the Buff and Love is Blue

Boys in the Buff

Boys in the Buff
Boys in the Buff

I’ve not seen such contrasting productions in one evening in a long time. I won’t dwell too long on Boys in the Buff, as my esteemed reviewing colleague Terry Eastham has already reviewed it (Boys In The Buff review)- at least twice – and on one occasion ‘in the buff’ himself. This time around, the ‘clothing optional’ performances were sold out (for the record – the one I went to wasn’t one of them). Anyway, I had to laugh at a musical number about the fears and horrors patrons have when it comes to ‘audience participation’. Spoiler alert: we were not asked to stand and follow the cast’s lead in peeling layers of clothing off.

It is more of a musical revue than a book musical, at least to me, though so much of it is open to interpretation. When Phil (Andrew Ewart) expresses reluctance to get naked in front of an audience (fair enough), is he effectively peer pressured into doing so? In this day and age, wouldn’t a more appropriate response be to tell him to do what he feels comfortable doing? To attempt an analysis of the psychological impact of everyone else – Diana (Lauren Wood), Richard (Owen Dennis), Max (Sam Walter) and Dan (David Heal) – steering him towards revealing his manhood is beyond the scope of what is essentially a fun and tongue-in-cheek show, with a message about not letting personal inhibitions stopping people from living life to the full.

Quite reassuringly, a clear message was given that the use of mobile telephony really was out of bounds for this production – even during the bows. The show had something to say, for instance, about ‘perfect people’ in colour magazines, photogenic as they are, encouraging instead “unashamed imperfection”. The body positivity theme gives the show an appropriately happy musical ending, with Phil’s narrative arc potentially having all sorts of real-world applications, in the sense that challenges are often best overcome by seeing them as opportunities for growth.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Love is Blue

Love is Blue is a two-hander play set in London. Out of Hand, the company operating the outdoor poster scheme for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, objected to the selected photo for the show’s poster, claiming “the image used displays a power dynamic that could offend those who see the poster as it might be seen to be sexually aggressive/taking advantage of vulnerable individuals”. The poster has been approved for publication after all but could yet be subject to censorship if there are complaints.

Love Is BlueOlly (Sam Walter) works as a City trader, while Aaron (Andrew Ewart) is a young homeless man. The apparently offensive promo shot shows them – wait for it – fully clothed, in broad daylight and in conversation. The play makes no attempt to challenge the stereotype of investment bankers having certain personality traits, at least when in the office, but as there aren’t any scenes at the workplace, the show focuses instead on Olly’s home life. The first encounter between the pair comes about when Olly discards a half-finished coffee and Aaron picks it up – with permission – and expresses gratitude someone has allowed him to have a few sips of cold coffee.

The initial conversation results in Aaron saying he would like a shower: although Olly’s question about what he wants was a wider one about life goals and ambitions, the reply was at least something Olly could help with. There are certain things even the salary of a trader can’t buy, however, and Olly is undergoing a grieving process following the loss of his partner Sam. He still talks to him, but of course there’s no reply, and there’s a parallel between Olly speaking to Sam, and Aaron, who ran away from a strict religious foster home that wouldn’t tolerate his sexual orientation, praying to God.

There are disagreements that boil over, and the dramatic tension in the play rises and falls. Aaron leaves Olly’s flat of his own accord, and in another scene is ordered to get out, but there was always the knowledge that this wasn’t a final goodbye – if anything, the play would be even shorter than it already is. Not, on the other hand, that it needs to be any longer, telling its story at a moderate pace.

Both characters have proverbial demons to wrestle with, with Walter’s Olly putting in something of a masterclass in controlled emotion. The tears are on the verge of falling, and the pain of bereavement is evidently still raw, but he holds back just enough to give a speech at Sam’s memorial. For Aaron, running away from religious fundamentalism, including proposed conversion therapy, serves as a stark reminder that such attitudes still exist today, and not everyone who finds themselves in a homeless situation does so because of their own mistakes.

A very modern play for very modern times, I am reminded of a conversation I once had with an older man in the LGBT+ community, who wished he could see a play about gays that wasn’t ‘bleating on about HIV and AIDS’ (his choice of words). I’d recommend Love is Blue to him, and I’d recommend it to you, too.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

BOYS IN THE BUFF
“How much could you reveal?”
BOYS IN THE BUFF is a musical comedy commissioned by LAMBCO, discussing image, gym, photoshop, marketing, and body-confidence

LOVE IS BLUE
“picking up a young guy…
…or picking up the pieces?”
LOVE IS BLUE is a play commissioned by LAMBCO that navigates “what’s in it for me” when someone helps another

More information can be found online a
https://www.lambcoproductions.co.uk/

Related News & Reviews Past & Present

  1. Boys in the Buff at the Drayton Arms Theatre
  2. Review of Boys in the Buff at the Stockwell Playhouse
  3. Boys in the Buff the Concert Review – The King’s Head Theatre
  4. ‘Boys in the Buff’ installs latest UVC technology in the fight against Covid
  5. BUFF: Scott Le Crass and Ben Fensome at Vault Festival

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