tue 16/08/2022

Seduction: An Erotic Black Comedy, Above the Stag Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Seduction: An Erotic Black Comedy, Above the Stag Theatre

Seduction: An Erotic Black Comedy, Above the Stag Theatre

Jack Heifner's all-male version of La Ronde is short on wit and good acting

Have you ever found onstage nudity sexy? Unlike a friend of mine, for whom the epiphany of the National Theatre's Bent was the giant member in the first five minutes, I honestly haven't. Sensuous, once, in the Maly Theatre's skinny-dipping Platonov, and even sweet, in ATS Theatre's strong adaptation of Forster's Maurice. Since the theatre's Artistic Director Peter Bull, evidently a good guy, was staging this, Jack Heifner's all-male updating of Schnitzler's La Ronde, I'd hoped that some good things would come of it. Unfortunately, for me at any rate, Seduction was neither erotic, very funny nor very dark (until you read the programme note for a reason why).

What remains, given that it's not exactly going to be Schnitzler when the second line of the adaptation is, "Fancy a fuck, sailor?" Well, obviously the round-dance pattern in the progress of city dalliances, from Rent Boy-Sailor to Sailor-Handyman, Handyman-Student, undsoweiter. That could have been a virtue, with nine parts played by five men - plus Su Pollard providing creative audience vocals, for one night only presumably. But it turns out to be a bit of a liability when you realise you're going to be stuck for two scenes on the trot with a couple of less than accomplished actors. And those performers tend to lapse in characterisation between scenes, so unless you know La Ronde already you might be confused as to who's who early on.

Bull's production is reasonably atmospheric, with Fiona Russell's designs making good use of the tiny space and a battery of well-chosen, handsomely amplified gay anthems. The simulated sex is, I guess, supposed to be either brutishly short, uncomfortable or Carry On-ish. But many of the inter-scene dumbshows are baffling (or maybe I'm a bit dense - but toreadors and paparazzi? Why?). And the uncertain tone of some of the acting hardly spells out the playwright's intended morality about careless, condomless sex in contemporary London - not, at least, until the Rent Boy's last line, ambiguous in context: "I'm positive."

He's played with promising insouciance and, yes, just a hint of erotic charge by Stanley Eldridge, who also gets some of the few deserved laughs of the evening as the uncertain Teenager. Last night there was a lot of thespy chortling over the knowing references of the very camp Actor (Stewart Dunseith) in the second act's comic intermezzo, too, but that seemed as thinly written as the awkward characterisation of the stereotypical Writer. Young Michael Morrison does what he could with that, and projects better than several of his colleagues in the small space. Not all bad, by any means, but by and large Seduction inclined me to stay away from pub theatre just as surely as the last show I saw Above The Stag, that extremely well-acted Maurice, had lured me back. Anyway, I wish the company well in its search for a new venue following the news of further Victoria redevelopment.

  • Seduction is Above The Stag Theatre until 20 February

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