After a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014, “Torsten, The Beautiful Libertine” now plays at the Above The Stag Theatre. Between two seedy alleyways, this theatre is a little LGBT sanctuary. I’ve never experienced a warmer welcome than at this venue, which is why it is a shame that the story of the polysexual Torsten wasn’t particularly great.
In a set of broken down concrete, sprayed on sofas, golden picture frames and street signs, Andy Bell, Peter Straker and Lana Pillay take turns to lament their love lives.
The two heartbroken ex-lovers of Torsten, ‘legendary’ prostitute Lady Domina Bizarre (Lana) and heavy-drinking Rupert (Peter) now live together and explicitly share their sexual adventures with one another. Both are leading a bohemian lifestyle, but feel lonely and long for love. Torsten, who has long left them, reflects back on his life and especially reminiscences about these two.
The cabaret-like songs the cast belts out are mostly character introductions, lifestyle descriptions and declarations of sorrow. Lyrics and melodies are repetitive and reiterate the narrative. While well-sung, the tunes aren’t very catchy and the lyrics not very clever. There is no clear storyline to the play, which makes following what happens on stage quite difficult; there just seems to be a lot of bitterness all around. There is a lot of unnecessary voice-over playback, which leaves the actors with nothing to do but frown. Whenever Torsten is not on stage singing about his lost loves, Domina and Rupert exchange gross-out sex stories and jokes about faecal matters. Audience laughter seemed genuine, but largely embarrassed.
The rather lush wording of the crass topics as written by Barney Ashton sometimes lead to some difficulties remembering the lines or stumbled delivery.
Definite highlight of the show was Lana Pillay’s confidence.
All in all, it just did not really feel like a play or musical, but more like general evening entertainment thrown into a community get-together. Enjoyable, but nothing to specifically buy tickets and go out for.
Reviewed by Lisa Theresa Downey-Dent
TORSTEN, THE BEAUTIFUL LIBERTINE is playing at Above The Stag Theatre until 27 March 2016