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Review of Black Beauty In Irons at Theatre Utopia

Black Beauty In IronsI approach everything that I’m asked to review in a positive frame of mind. I’m always optimistic when I enter the theatre or whatever space the piece is being put on – I really want to see things that challenge, entertain and make me think. So it was with my usual positivity that I headed for Croydon (not a problem as I live a few minutes away) and to Matthew’s Yard where Theatre Utopia is located – a venue I really like. Unlike my last visit to this theatre, we did get told that the play was about to start and we headed into the eighty seater auditorium. There we found, as is the fashion these days, some of the actors already on stage, one of them dressed in a horse bridle complete with fake tail, prancing around equine-like whilst being guided by an actor with a whip. Then the lights went down and the piece began.

After about five minutes my positivity evaporated and I realised we might be in for a long evening (even though the piece turned out to be about seventy minutes in length). The basic premise was that Aidan/Beauty wanted to be a pony and live her life like that even if it affected her relationship which as a slave to Bravo, her lover/dom (dominatrix). She seemed to have all kinds of fetishes as well as wanting a “normal” love life and it all got a bit confusing.

There was lots of leather with harnesses (and false tails) and the cast of six divided into ponies and riders/drivers. Aidan had written her thoughts down in a book in the guise of Beauty and these were used as voiceover to describe her feelings and her mind-set as the piece progressed – although I’m not convinced it progressed very far.

At the end, I was no more enlightened as I was as at the beginning. There was a lot of dialogue about sexual freedom and I presume that was something that writer/director Simon Christopher was trying to get across but if that was his aim, there has to be a better way to do it. Or it could have been about the de-humanising of the human condition but if that’s the message, it passed me by. In the adverting for the play, it states: Black Beauty in Irons confronts whether it’s possible to truly fulfil your fantasies. Can the gap between who you are and how the world sees you ever be bridged? What happens when the lines between fantasy and reality blur? If they’re the questions the play is supposed to be answering, I really don’t think it does.

However, what was most disappointing about the evening was some very poor acting from all of the cast (who I think it’s best not to name). I don’t know if it was down to the directing, the casting or lack of rehearsal time but acting isn’t just learning lines – there has to be believability and a connection with the audience but I’m afraid it was sadly lacking here.

As I said, I really like Theatre Utopia and Jamal Chong is doing a superb job bringing new works to Croydon but judging by the size of the audience, he may have his work cut out. However, there are productions booked right up to next March and I look forward to seeing some of them. I’m all for new and Avant Garde, contemporary theatre but it’s important that productions engage with the audience and sadly I don’t think Black Beauty In Irons does.

1 star

Review by Alan Fitter

Black Beauty in Irons
Being a human is so boring. But everyone has their fantasies…
When Bravo unexpectedly reveals Aidan’s best kept secret they embark on an exploration of her deepest fantasies. With new friendships forming fast, he has to accept the animalistic part of her she craves to release or risk losing her.

But what if he’s in over his head?
What if Aidan is no longer the person Bravo loved?
How can he reign in what she wants to become without destroying what they have?

A razor-sharp journey into love, pride and kink, Black Beauty in Irons confronts whether it’s possible to truly fulfil your fantasies. Can the gap between who you are and how the world sees you ever be bridged? What happens when the lines between fantasy and reality blur?

POSTEROTICISM wants to create a truly total theatre. A theatre in which anything that people can do can be done onstage to express the truth of the human condition. They create work about what it’s like to be different, to be individual and to be proud of who we are. “There are people everywhere who can’t be open about their lifestyles – we think it’s time for change.”

Erin Wilson – Aidan/Beauty
Sam Treharne – Bravo
Alexia Turchi – Jane
Marcus Frewin-Ridley – Duke
Yannah Tsvetkova – Ginger
Nicole van Niekerk – Aidan’s Fantasy/Auctioneer/Ruby

Director/Writer – Simon Christopher
Technical Manager – Sam Gilham (Serious Audio)
Music by Gareth Rhys Prior

Theatre Utopia
Matthews Yard
1 Matthews Yard, Croydon CR0 1FF, United Kingdom


2 thoughts on “Review of Black Beauty In Irons at Theatre Utopia”

  1. I am saddened by this review. Having seen the production, I find it difficult to understand how the play didn’t make you think – unless perhaps you are so tired of the whole scene that it’s old hat to you. Or, more likely, you just don’t understand it. I guess your review is meant to inform possible audiences, but unless you are speaking from an informed position, that’s difficult. As to the performers, the production I saw was made moving and intense by the clear engagement they had with the piece which held the audience spell-bound, their very obvious professionalism and their knowledge of the play such that it appeared as if they were living this piece, rather than just performing. We obviously differ in opinion on the acting then. But since you have access to a wide audience, I’d urge you to get to know where a play is coming from before you see it. That way you won’t make embarrassing statements like “I’m all for Avant Garde” without knowing what you’re talking about. Not to mention dismissing the work of many months sp tritely as if it had no effect on the lives of those who have worked so hard to create something entirely new and challenging.

  2. Having seen the play this Sunday I’m disappointed by this poor review, and found the play to be both touching and interesting. The actors conveyed a genuine affection between Aidan and Bravo, and their frustration at feeling trapped by narrow-minded society. Their exploration of the pony play community and its impact on the characters is both realistic and emotional. With twaddle like fifty shades misrepresenting the kinky community it was also refreshing to see the principle of consent and the reality/fantasy divide so well illustrated in this play. If it has another run, which I sincerely hope it does, do yourself a favour and ignore the above review, it’s well worth watching.

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