Up4aMeet? – Crescent Theatre Birmingham, 22nd July 2013
Up4aMeet? Is the finest example of a play that doesn’t take itself too seriously, is very aware of what it is, but also genuinely funny. What could have been a production that was funny for the wrong reasons, this is a very humorous piece of theatre packed full of topical references and some very accurate observations.
The play, set in block of flats, follows the lives of 3 very different (stereotypical) gay men, their mutual friend the celebrity booker, her failing client and the new flat mate of the oldest of the 3 men. Along with the use of ‘Cock Shop’ aka Grindr on their phones and websites to find sex and dates the action becomes farcical with cross communication, mixed identification and the need to succeed.
The play is unashamed of what people may think of it, with the casting of Lloyd Daniels (of X Factor fame), Nikki Graham (of ‘who is she’ Big Brother fame) and also returning to the play after it’s run in London last year, Benedict Garrett (again of Big Brother fame but also of porn star teacher fame). The first two aren’t fantastic actors but are having the time of the their lives on stage and Garrett, won’t win a best actor award, but is better than expected, is consistent in his Spanish (or whatever accent as his character says when breaking out of character in a monologue that hits the nail on the head about what the play is about) and his character, a new naturist, isn’t shy in baring all – and I mean ALL! These three are joined by Chris Wills playing Grant, a young single gay guy who feels lost in the world, Michael Blore as Julien, a 50 something single gay walking stereotype into Bassey and the other classic icons and Penny Tasker as Caroline, the mutual friend and failing celebrity booker who is a link in the action.
There are some hilarious moments in the play and some sublimely set up moments. One of which is when Caroline enters with a bandage over one eye and the subject turns to glory holes. You know what’s happened, but the prolonged explanation had the audience in hysterics from the first word up to the final reveal of the incident. Another is when Garrett’s character, Carlos, breaks into a monologue about how gay men of a certain age find themselves going to see plays which feature z list celebrities prancing about in next to nothing and tell themselves it’s all ‘art’ – which the audience instantly recognised as being about them but finding it, although deeply accurate, one of the funniest things in the world! There’s also nods to Nikki Graham’s famous Big Brother tantrums leading into a comical cat fight between the two girls, and Julien’s ambitions to be noticed by entering a drag contest at a kink club failing miserably.
Over all though there is a love story that forms between two of the characters and the perils of using the apps and websites and hiding behind masks on them is explored. As I’ve already said, there are some wonderful observations of the gay and celebrity world that are brought to life by the actors with conviction. The play doesn’t take itself seriously, but you can tell that the actors and production team have spent the effort to make the play the best it can be. It won’t win awards for its script or acting, but it is a great evening out full of laughs.
Up4aMeet? contains very frequent full frontal nudity, very rude language and topics of a sexual nature – so probably isn’t suitable for the young ones or those who are easily offended.
The tour continues with one final performance at the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham tonight before heading to Swansea, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow with the final performance being on 10th August.
More information can be found at the show’s website: http://www.up4ameetontour.com/