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SOHO BOY a new musical by Paul Emelion Daly

For centuries, the bright lights of London have called to people. From Dick Wittington to, well let’s be honest, me, we’ve all left our hometowns and moved down to the city on the Thames. For LGBT+ people, there is an added attraction in heading to London. It’s far enough away from the family so they will not be able to interfere with you living your real life. But beware. London can be a wonderful place, but it can also be a lonely city disinterested in those that come seeking freedom, fame, and fortune. The good and bad of the big city is a subject Paul Emelion Daly has written about in his new musical Soho Boy which has opened at the Drayton Arms Theatre.

Soho Boy - Credit Brittain Photography.
Soho Boy – Credit Brittain Photography.

This 50-minute show follows the life of Spencer (Owen Dennis) a young twinkie boy who’s living the dream. Works in a clothes shop – where he can apparently borrow outfits – by day, and parties hard at night. Like many others, he dreams of being a professional performer and having that special person in his life. Will Spencer get his heart’s desire, or will the city simply swallow him up and spit him out? Only time will tell.

Let me get my criticism of Soho Boy out straight away. It’s too short. I really wanted more of Spencer and his life. On the surface, he’s got the world at his feet and not a care in the world but, as we find out, there is a deeper side to Spencer’s life, and I think we could have found out so much more about him.

Having got that out of my system, I really enjoyed this production. Spencer is someone we all know. Every night he’s out trolling down Compton Street, dancing with his mates at G.A.Y. and appearing to live a life we all dream of. But Daly takes the lad to another level, and we get to see the truth behind the facade. Spencer, like the rest of us, is just trying to live the best life he can, while not necessarily believing it will ever get any better. Daly’s musical numbers really emphasise this from the pure fun of ‘Strut into Soho’ through the surprising ‘Leathers and Chains’ to the highly emotional ‘I Still Remember.’ The last, really tugged at my heartstrings, reminding me so much of my own feelings the first time my heart got broken.

Good story, great songs and, oh my word, what a performer. According to the programme, Owen Dennis is making his professional debut in Soho Boy, and is graduating from Italia Conti this year. Well, all I can say is that, if there is any justice, this actor should have a glittering future in front of him. Dennis has captured the ‘twink on the town’ perfectly. Owen acts, sings dances – full credit to choreographer Robbie O’Reilly – and totally throws himself into Spencer. I’m honestly not sure how he did it, but Owen somehow made the Spencer we saw at the end of the show look older and more mature than the one that opened it. A truly wonderful piece of acting that really reflected the trials and tribulations Spencer had gone through.

The performing area at the Drayton Arms isn’t massive but Matt Strachan’s directing, along with David Shields’ set and costume design and Richard Lambert’s lighting, makes it feel bigger than it is and provides plenty of room for Spencer to live his life. There was also some video at the back which, I guess, was there to add to the atmosphere, although it didn’t really work for me.

Summing up. Soho Boy is a really great example of taking a seemingly simple subject – in this case, a pretty little twink – and delving beneath the surface to find the person within. It is a thought-provoking look at the life, both the highs and the lows, led by many people who arrive in London ready to take on the world and forget the golden rule. No matter how much you succeed, London always wins.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Young, trendy Spencer leaves home and hits Soho like a whirlwind in a journey of love, laughter, heartbreak and happiness. Working in a clothes store, partying at the weekend and busking on the streets. But all that glitter fades when Spencer finds love and stumbles into the darker side of the neon lights and tight white t-shirts.

This modern tale on the gay scene which can be harsh and lonely surrounded by glamour, sex and songs.

Please be aware this production contains adult themes, theatrical effects, flashing lights, loud sound effects and nudity.

LISTINGS INFO
SOHO BOY
by Paul Emelion Daly
Directed by Matt Strachan

Drayton Arms Theatre
153 Old Brompton Road
London
SW5 0LJ
24 May to 4 June, 2022

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