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BWW Review: TORCH SONG, Turbine Theatre

BWW Review: TORCH SONG, Turbine TheatreBWW Review: TORCH SONG, Turbine Theatre

It's an exciting time for London theatre at the moment, and never more so than when a brand new venue opens, leaving us brimming with anticipation at the potential to come.

Torch Song is the inaugural production at the Turbine Theatre - a trendy and intimate space at Battersea Power Station - and it's proven to be an excellent launch pad for what will hopefully be a long life for Paul Taylor-Mills' new venture.

Torch Song is a heavily revised version of the original Torch Song Trilogy by Harvey Fierstein, tackling important themes around acceptance, minority communities, and the impact of the choices we make. Set in the 70s and 80s, the piece is centred around Arnold Beckoff, an openly gay man who also happens to be a drag queen and torch singer. We follow his complicated journey navigating his disillusionment, yet yearning, for love, and how the people around him are impacted by that.

Matthew Arnold delivers an astounding performance as Arnold - he is able to handle the deeply emotional moments with a visceral stillness that speaks volumes. Equally, he thrives when the material is lighter and more comedic.

Drew McOnie's direction is fresh and engaging, and feels anchored entirely in the movement around the stage of all six actors. Movement is, in fact, essential to the elevation of this piece, and never more so than the scenes where one actor is alone on stage, interacting with a person that the audience can't see. We are forced to imagine the other person, and this sense of absence reflects the detachment that Arnold often experiences with the ones he loves.

This is a play that deals with some heavy themes, but the pacing is swift and the emotional transitions from dark to comedic to shocking are regular enough to keep the audience on their toes. This works particularly well in the first act, during the second part of the trilogy - with some short and sharp scene transitions, clever lighting, via pacy choreography, the four principal actors navigating the small stage impressively well.

What a treat to experience the revival of a seminal 1970s play that's been reinterpreted with a 2019 vision as fresh as the newly painted theatre that houses it. Get yourselves to the Turbine Theatre, have a drink in its cosy bar...and get ready to witness something special.

Torch Song at the Turbine Theatre until 13 October

Read our interview with Drew McOnie and Matthew Needham

Photo credit: Mark Senior

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From This Author Caroline Cronin