Kind of like a “Sex Encounters of the Closet Kind” exploration of straight-on-queer relationships, My Gay Best Friend takes no prisoners when it comes to letting it all hang out. Written and performed by Louise Jameson and Nigel Fairs we have a raunchy, randy, ribald and exceptionally rude drama that makes us squirm and chortle in equal measure.
Jameson plays Rachel (AKA Raquel Rooster) a middle-aged, briefly-married Boots beauty-counter assistant for whom life has pretty much passed her by without so much as a by-your-leave or thanks-for-coming. A chance encounter, via an accidental-nail- polish incident, with cleaner Gavin (AKA Wanker for Wolverhampton) leads to an unlikely and affectionate relationship between these two lost souls swimming aimlessly around an empty fish-bowl.
We start at the end – Gavin has persuaded Rachel to take part in a karaoke event and when he doesn’t turn up to lend moral support she locks herself in the ladies, desperately trying to reach him on the ’phone. Gavin, meantime,
having forgotten about the event, is ensconced in the bathroom of his lesbian neighbour, George, and is forlornly engaged in the process that will provide George and her partner the necessary requisites to produce her own baby.
Gavin’s mobile is off: Rachel is going apeshit.
Through a series of monologues, some hilarious, some movingly touching, we learn about the pretty mundane existences of these two loners and they also re-enact the greatest hits of their unusual relationship. It’s both funny and sad and the parallel narratives of their disparate lives are cleverly woven together and skilfully performed.
As Rachel, Jameson grabs you by the crotch and embarks on a full-frontal assault on any snowflake tendencies that might be lurking in your emotional make-up. She’s witty and crude, savage and crass, and likably hateful as she
angrily deconstructs the men in her life – father, “uncle”, husband – and the scars they have left on her permanently bruised psyche. She ain’t no wallflower but you can’t help feeling that, behind the bravado, under the
fragile skin of feminine-machismo, she’d dearly love to be. Gay Gavin, who becomes her best friend, offers her a lifeline, but it’s a tentative, badly-fraying lifeline at best.
Jameson’s is an extraordinarily edgy and visceral performance by an actor at the top of her game, someone who is intent on pushing the barriers to uncover the depths of character that lurk beneath the mask of facial
For this to come off in all its gory glory Jameson needs a straight man: in this case it’s a gay straight man, Gavin, played with affecting warmth and self-deprecating humour by Fairs. Gavin is a professional apologist – he was late in coming to terms with his sexuality, he lost his partner, he’s not a very good cleaner, for a queer guy he’s got no fashion sense, and he’s very sorry but, basically, porn does nothing for him. He does, though, have a “listening face” and is able to provide unexpected succour for a washed-up, ranty Boots assistant – for a while, anyway. Until, that is – and he’s very sorry about this – he meets lesbian George and her glamorous film-star partner – and Rachel feels she’s lost him – which makes the panic in the ladies before her karaoke debut even more real.
Jameson and Fairs together – who have worked with each other before – are a wonder to behold – a truly evocative tour de force brought to resonant life in the intimate confines of the Hope Theatre stage. Director Veronica Roberts is canny enough to let these two have their head whilst gently reining them in when they start to get too OTT. The direction is thus subtle but positive letting the pair’s intuitive magic speak for itself whilst retaining the necessary grip on the meandering narrative. It works well and is first class entertainment.
Artistic Director, Matthew Parker, who won Best Artistic Director at the Off West End Awards last year, curates a wonderful collection of theatrical artefacts at the Hope and his programming is always high-quality and entertaining. The theatre has a delightful welcoming atmosphere and it’s a lovely intimate space: but you’re not allowed to get too comfortable because the drama is always edgy and vibrant – as demonstrated by My Gay Best Friend. Do get along there if you haven’t experienced it.
Review by Peter Yates
Written and performed by Louise Jameson (Eastenders, Tenko, Dr Who, Bergerac) and Nigel Fairs, MY GAY BEST FRIEND is a heady mixture of high camp, melancholy reflection on friendships and the childhood dramas that haunt us all. Racquell is a 50something would-be diva who’s locked herself in the ladies, furious because her gay best friend Gavin isn’t there to support her; he’s sitting in a walk-in wardrobe about to become a father with a lesbian couple and a turkey baster!
Over 18s only. Due to pub licensing laws no one under the age of 18 is permitted into the building after 7pm.
my gay best friend
written & performed by LOUISE JAMESON & NIGEL FAIRS
9 – 27 Jan
Tues to Sat only