REVIEW: CIRCA (Vaults Theatre)

imageIn Pride week it seemed only fitting that Tom Radcliffe’s show Circa has been staged in the wonderfully eclectic Vaults Theatre in Waterloo. Following a man’s (there are no names) experience of being gay, from first fumblings with school friends to Grindr hook ups, the show attempts to show the struggle of overcoming the difficulties gay LBGT people can face.

Except it doesn’t. The show switches from emphasising that gay men have the same family and monogamous desires as straight men (whatever that means) to parading a troupe of stereotypes to highlight how impossible that can be. Neither uplifting, nor thought-provoking, the show manages to feel both over and under worked.

There are a couple of standout scenes within the play that are engaging without being preachy. A scene where our lead and his live-in lover discuss the possibility of children in the future felt honest as the dialogue was rooted in reality, whilst a scene set on a holiday balcony hit just the right notes to be sexy and truthful. However, these scenes were surrounded by a disappointingly garbled plot line. The trouble is Tom Radcliffe’s script is meant to follow a man throughout 3 decades, yet nothing within the script, costume or set reflects the time change. Rather than holding a mirror up to gay experiences in the past, it creates a confusing timeline with inaccurate references and scenarios.

The cast do their best with their characters and there are some lovely performances from Scott Westwood as our lead man and Thomas Flynn as a rent boy. Flynn is snappy with humour but also manages to bring out the tenderness in his character which is no mean feat to do while wearing a blue wig. Westwood is completely believable swinging between vulnerability and petulance, even if his character is annoyingly unlikeable. As the holiday romance Zed Josef is magnetic to watch, easily slipping into the character and sparking with Westwood to create a lovely scene.

The staging issues with this production are unforgivable and show a lack of understanding of the venue’s capabilities. Clever techniques such as free standing doors that are moved around the stage end up wholly blocking people’s views and although we’re all used to sightline issues, this could have been easily fixed. Similarly, scenes set on the downstage floor are completely obscured to everyone outside of the front row and the audience end up missing key parts of the plot that are later heavily referenced.

Rather than being a thought-provoking piece of theatre, Circa fails to say anything that Queer as Folk didn’t 20 years ago and although it has its moments, it is a confused show that fails to be clear with its plot line or its messages.

Reviewed by Roz Carter