BWW Review: THIRST TRAP, Above The Stag
James Barr's Thirst Trap is an outrageously funny exploration of modern dating. Following a four-star run at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, the two London dates have been extended to four at Above the Stag in Vauxhall.
The hour-long piece is highly interactive, with the audience asked for feedback and advice, as well as being invited out on dates with Barr onstage. This is done through the 'brutal' means of real-life dating app swiping, set to an upbeat musical theme which fills the audience with anticipation rather than dread at the thought of being judged as a potential boyfriend.
Although the show is predominantly aimed at gay men, and the audience consisted mostly of couples on this occasion, the humour appeals to everyone. Barr generously checks in with the straight girls in the audience to make sure they're keeping up.
The show takes twists and turns which will always be unexpected as they are dependent on who is chosen from the audience for Barr's dating surgery. He reacts quickly to heckling and brings the best out of those joining in. He is so endearing as a performer that he puts viewers at ease, which allows for a dynamic relationship between audience and performer.
One man who was selected for a date walked off. One girl invited on stage decided to take the date in a different direction to the formula Barr follows throughout.
The topical references to current politics and various social plagues are relevant to everyone and are sprinkled in to keep everyone on their toes. They give Barr a distinctive voice and ensure the show is not shallow, without taking away from the fun night out it is.
The piece is laugh-out-loud funny from the moment Barr appears lurid-green-tight-clad leg first. The best part of the show is perhaps the reimagining of famous films as part of a contemporary gay scene.
His ending statement about the downsides to dating apps is highly relatable. It is hard not to respect his honesty and openness, and it allows him to reach out to others who may be struggling with the same plight.
The piece is visually appealing, with Barr dressing as an avocado throughout for a comprehensively thought-through dating analogy and an extended metaphor he refers back to at various points, so that the gimmick makes perfect sense.
Thirst Trap starts with a single restaurant table on stage, with a gingham table cloth and two chairs, to which wine, candles and balloons are added at various stages to make the dating scene increasingly intense. The subtle differences are effective in changing the tone of each date, and it demonstrates the eye for detail Barr has as a performer.
He uses a screen featuring a kind of PowerPoint presentation to great effect, to show photos, give examples and generally add another dimension to his quick-fire humour. The technology is worked seamlessly into the show. Even when it doesn't work, Barr riffs around it and gets away with it, as it feels in keeping with his slightly awkward character.
There are lots of elements to this production, especially considering it is a one-man show in a small fringe venue. However, everything adds to the richness of the performance. The music has been carefully selected, the lighting is changed with expert comic timing to alter the atmosphere, and the images help provide context and colour. Lucas Livesey does a great job overseeing the technical elements to keep the show running smoothly.
The one element which let the production down slightly was the microphone. It was cumbersome, being passed between Barr and his dates, and wasn't necessary in the small space. It was slightly too sensitive, so voices were distorting, and it picked up the sound of the trains rattling overhead and amplified the noise to make it a little uncomfortable.
Thirst Trap is at once sensitive and outrageously funny. It makes for a great night out with friends. Not for the shy and retiring theatre-goers perhaps, but the hour flies by with a whole evening's worth of laughter packed into the short and excellently crafted show.