Tom Allen, Soho Theatre | reviews, news & interviews
Tom Allen, Soho Theatre
Tom Allen, Soho Theatre
Intricately constructed tale about suburbia
Tom Allen may have started life in Bromley, a non-descript south London suburb, but there was always a touch of Oscar Wilde about him – whether in his dress sense or his way with words, as we have learned from previous shows. It was obvious to him – and to school bullies – that he was not like them, a gay, bookish, clever boy with a very distinct way of expressing himself.
It's his suburban background that Allen mines for his latest show, Indeed, which debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe. At first sight, it may appear to be his most biographical hour, featuring as it does a lengthy anecdote about his parents' friend Joyce and a party she throws, during which he gets locked in a lavatory. But this material is mostly fantastical (or at least appears so to me), as he goes into meticulous detail describing an evening that goes wrong on so many levels.
This is an intricately constructed tale, written and performed with a winning panache
He's an acute observer of the minutiae of suburban life, and his stage persona – a mix of hauteur and faux horror that he comes from the same place as Joyce and her mates, who want to show they're “down with the poofs” – allows him some mild cruelty in describing what appeals to them in, say, party food or bathroom decor, but appals him.
The construct of this shaggy-dog story about how Allen is finally released from Joyce's bathroom can sometimes pall, but he steps out of it occasionally to address subjects such as Brexit, chemsex and – most importantly – the water flume that seemingly every local authority in Britain installed at municipal swimming pools in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The last anecdote, vividly described, deservedly provides the evening's biggest laughs.
He has failed three driving tests, he also tells us, which is usually pedestrian stuff (forgive the pun) for most comics, but Allen elevates it. “It's always disappointing to be told you've failed at something by someone in a gilet,” this most debonair of men bemoans, perfectly capturing the scene for us. There's a wonderfully unexpected payoff, too, about hosting a recent awards ceremony for driving instructors.
This is an intricately constructed tale, written and performed with a winning panache.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?