Review,  Theatre

Torch Song

It feels like forever since I went to see a play.  I mean it isn’t, but it has felt so much longer.  Torch Song has just opened at the brand new theatre space Turbine Theatre at Battersea – yes next to the power station.  

Torch Song is by Harvey Fierstein and it follows the life of Arnold – drag queen his adventures in love in three parts. (International Stud, A Fugue in the Nursery and Widows and Children First)  We saw the cut-down version which ran for 2hr 40 minutes the original version ran for four hours. 

This is the first production in this new space the auditorium holds 200 people so it is exceedingly intimate. Its also housed underneath a railway bridge so the performance is peppered with percussion but it doesn’t get in the way.

Matthew Needham carried the play as Arnold, Jewish, gay drag queen and torch singer set in the early 70s it opens with an absolute monster of a soliloquy which he plays beautifully, he gives such a nuanced performance at turns tart-with-a-heart, vulnerable, fierce and beautiful. The play deals with the complex relationship between Arnold and Ed. Ed is played by Dino Fetscher who in this production looks a like a short Chris Evans (Captain America) with a 70’s moustache in place. Ed is bisexual and there’s a whole section of the text felt really biphobic and I’m not sure if that’s just an attitude of the time but it made me somewhat uncomfortable. 

There is a sense of family melodrama and the exploration of relationships between Ed’s wife and Arnold was excellent.  The final act brings in Arnold’s mother and boy am I a sucker for difficult mother narratives.  I enjoyed the play very much.  The small space meant we were very close to the action and the actors, the emotion that generated was very potent. The staging was economic and effective.

Definitely worth a viewing if you want to be kicked in the feels. It runs at the Turbine Theatre until 13 October.

Jane Hanmer

Born in deepest darkest Shropshire. Currently living in Durrey. A reader of books, a watcher of theatre and film, a player of board games. Intersectional Feminist Pronouns: She/her

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