Ever feel that there was something wrong with you? Let’s be honest we all do at times. Whether it’s our looks or personality there are times when we will question ourselves as to whether we are ‘right’ or not. Usually, this is not a problem, and for me the answer is simple – don’t look in a mirror and remember personality-wise, I am awesome. However, when you know something is wrong, and that something is that you have been born into the wrong body, then things are completely different, and this is at the heart of Nicole and Stacey Bland’s play Call Me Vicky at the Pleasance Theatre.
Vicky (Matt Greenwood) is not like other girls. For Vicky was born as a boy called Martin but, from a very early age, she knew that the male body she had been born into was the wrong one. Vicky’s one wish is to complete her transition from male to female. But this is SE London in the 1980s and not only is the technology for transitioning not that advanced, but society’s attitudes towards trans people were, on the whole rather negative as Vicky’s mum Sylvie (Wendi Peters) points out. But what does Vicky care? She likes nothing more than a night out with best friend Debs (Nicola Bland) at ‘The Golden Girl’ a rather seedy Soho drag club where she works and socialises. The club is presided over by drag queen Fat Pearl (Ben Welch) and employs a variety of people, including single mother Gabby (Stacey Victoria) For Vicky, the club is a means to an end. She can have fun with her friends – including a rather lovely punk rocker called Sid (Adam Young) and also save for her transition operation to finally make her dream come true and present to the world the person she really is.
Call Me Vicky is, claim the writers, based entirely on a true story and my admiration of the real Vicky cannot be overstated. Being a trans person in the twenty-first century is no picnic so it took someone of incredible bravery and determination to be trans back in the 1980s. The things that Vicky goes through in the 70-minute run are, at times quite heartbreaking but somehow, even in the face of horrendous bigotry and cruelty, she keeps herself moving forward towards her ultimate goal.
Part of this is due to the writing but, it is also down to same absolutely magnificent acting by Matt Greenwood as Vicky. Without any spoilers, Matt charts Vicky’s journey superbly. Vicky goes through so much in the play and Matt captures every mood and facet of Vicky’s life in fine style. A truly wonderful performance from this talented young actor. The supporting cast is equally as talented. Wendi Peters as mum Sylvie hits exactly the right note in the support of Vicky – this is especially true during her conversation with a biased doctor. We can only hear Sylvie’s side of the story but every fibre of her body is showing her feelings as she speaks to the person that is disparaging her child. I also have to mention Ben Welch who is not only a really great turn as Fat Pearl – a drag queen so bad she is actually really good – but in his second incarnation captures the mood of the times brilliantly.
Victoria Gimby has made pretty good use of the space available, though there are times when, if you are at the side as I was, it is difficult to see what is happening on the stage of the club, as there is a curtain in the way. And a huge shout out to Martha Hegarty for some truly wonderful costumes. I particularly loved Vicky’s very sparkly jacket in the first couple of scenes which was not only stunning but gave the audience a real indication of Vicky’s joie de vivre coupled with a real I’m taking nothing from nobody personality. I also really want it as my Pride outfit this year.
Call Me Vicky is a first-rate story and is presented really well by a talented cast. My one quibble is that, whilst I enjoyed the drag club scenes, I would have preferred less drag performance more in favour of learning much more about Vicky’s life, especially the ‘what happens after the curtain comes down’ as I have a feeling, and a profound hope, that, for Vicky, her friends and family, the story continues and becomes more fabulous. A marvelous tale of one young person’s struggle to finally say I am what I am!
Review by Terry Eastham
It’s 1980 in Elephant and Castle. Martin and best friend Debbie are getting ready for another night out at Martin’s favourite night spot, The Golden Girl – one of Soho’s premier drag clubs. However, tonight is not a regular night out. Tonight is the night that will change Martin’s life forever.
Playwrights Stacey Victoria Bland and Nicola Bland
Director Victoria Gimby
Sound Designer Jac Cooper
Lighting Designer Holly Ellis
Set and Costume Martha Hegarty
Set and Costume Assistant Kerrie Woods
Sylvie Wendi Peters
Vicky Matt Greenwood
Debbie Nicola Bland
Gabby Stacey Victoria Bland
Sid Adam Young
Fat Pearl Ben Welch
Call Me Vicky
Pleasance Theatre (Downstairs),
Carpenters Mews, North Road,
London N7 9EF
Tuesday 19th February – Saturday 9th March 2019