Can one ever choose where the heart leads one? That is the problem for the protagonist in Tim Fraser’s Candy at the King’s Head theatre.
Will (Michael Waller) is an ordinary northern lad. He’s young, OK looking and reasonably well educated. He lives at home with his mum and Great Aunt, has a pretty good job that he is good at and enjoys nights out with the lads. One of the lads is his old mate from school, Billy. Who has returned home from London. Billy has a band, and really wants Will to go and see them. Reluctantly, Will agrees and goes along. An action that will have a profound effect on his life. For the lead singer in Billy’s band is a lady called Candy, when Will sees her, it is love at first sight. Candy epitomises everything Will thinks of as the perfect woman and he is smitten from the moment the spotlight picks her out. There is only one problem, Candy is actually Billy in drag. Whilst Will knows this, and has no feelings – aside from friendship for Billy – he can’t stop himself from falling in love with Candy. Will struggles with his feelings, unsure what to do and if he can ever be with the woman he loves.
Now before anyone jumps in and says that this is a strange idea for a plot, let me tell you a story. I used to share an apartment with my brother, David, who is also a drag queen by the name of Misty Lee. When getting ready for a show, there was always an undefinable moment when David disappeared and Misty, a completely different person, was there. So the idea of Will separating Billy and Candy in his mind and falling for the latter made a lot of sense to me from the start.
Will is a wonderful ordinary bloke. He is a no-nonsense type that knows how to have a good time, the sort that would be great to have a pint with after work. Therefore, his reaction to his feelings for Candy feels totally right. Whilst he doesn’t want to feel the way he does, Will can’t help himself. This frustration with his situation permeates every aspect of his life, just the way it does for everyone when they meet and fall for ‘the one’. But Will’s struggle is that, whilst he is in love, he knows he can’t feel this way about Candy. In his heart, he knows they can never be together and this tears him apart. There is a wonderful moment near the end, where Will gets to talk to Candy and, for a few moments his face lights up as he and his dream converse together. From the opening, where he discusses the reality or not of ‘love at first sight’ through to the reality of waking from a dream, Tim Fraser’s writing really captures the reality of the guy.
Fantastic writing from Tim and an absolutely first class performance from Michael Waller as the love struck Will. Michael’s performance – under Director Nico Pimparé – is excellent. The performance feels like Will has got some friends together for a drink and to tell them his story so that he can get it off his chest without his mates judging him. Michael walks round, sometimes addressing individuals directly when he wants to get a point across or ask a rhetorical question. Michael’s performance feels earnest and sincere and you can easily picture the situations he discusses. This is so true when he describes his first sight of Candy. From his discomfort of being in a place where he knows nobody, to that moment where the lights go down and Candy appears on the stage then starts to sing, you follow Will’s journey as if you were there with him. Michael’s performance kept me hooked to Will’s story to the point where at the end, I wanted to rush up to him and reassure him that everything was going to be alright.
Candy began as a 15-minute short play. It has been worked on and expanded and is now a fifty-minute monologue that ticked all the boxes for me. Excellent writing, brilliant staging and a superb performance that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
Review by Terry Eastham
Do you believe in love at first sight? Will is struggling with a secret. He’s fallen hopelessly in love with the seductive, unattainable Candy – she’s an epiphany, a revelation, and just happens to be his best friend Billy dressed in drag. With his life crumbling at the fringes, Will struggles to make sense of his newfound feelings. Can he ever be with her? And what does loving her really mean?
Candy is a new comedy about masculinity, identity, and love.
Cast & Creative
Written by Tim Fraser
Directed by Nico Pimpare
Performed by Mike Waller
Produced by Reboot Theatre Company
Candy by Tim Fraser
King’s Head Theatre, Islington, London
19th -20th January 2020