Tag Archives: Wendi Peters

“Call Me Vicky” at the Pleasance Theatre 

Representation on stage has its own affirming power. Identifying with characters in a play can be special and it’s sincerely hoped that Nicola and Stacey Victoria Bland’s story of a young transsexual satisfies a target audience. The value of the endeavour isn’t under question, but its execution is regrettably flawed.

Taking the title role, Matt Greenwood gives a credible performance that powers the show. And there’s admirable support from Nicola Bland as best friend Debbie. But the rest of the cast are hampered by clichéd dialogue, especially poor Wendi Peters whose salt-of-the-earth mum character is an embarrassment – she literally has a lap tray of pie and mash at one point. Meanwhile, Fat Pearl, host of the seedy club Vicky ends up living in, makes a very uncomfortable role for Ben Welch. It’s not clear how much exploitation of the vulnerable staff is going on. And what self-respecting drag queen has only one pair of shoes? Nobody is helped by Victoria Gimby’s fussy direction, while the use of the space is poor and there’s far too much running around carrying drinks. 

Welch manages to get the crowd going despite his material. But hasn’t an important issue been lost? Drag queens and the trans community are not always happy fellow travellers – it’s puzzling that this isn’t raised. And similar oversights run throughout the play, becoming increasingly frustrating. Maybe it’s because there is so much going on: substance abuse, prostitution, police prejudice and Vicky’s horrific imprisonment. All are rushed through at terrific speed with short scenes and sloshy sentiment thrown in – one character (admirably performed by Stacey Victoria Bland) dies of an overdose with only the most basic back story.

Ironically, all this pushes the story of Vicky’s transition aside, as it does another subplot that really suffers – a burgeoning love story with a punk rocker, played tenderly by Adam Young, that is yearning to be fleshed out. That the events are based on a true story is certainly awful – but bringing them to the stage needs more of an effort. This is a debut piece and, in a rush to bear witness to events, too many sacrifices have been made to characters and even comprehension – it’s difficult to keep track of events as trauma after trauma occurs and the impact of each is unexplored. The aim may be laudable, but the play is not.

Until 9 March 2019


Photo by Fabio Santos

“White Christmas” at the Dominion Theatre

Christmas has come early to the Dominion Theatre, with Irving Berlin’s White Christmas up and running with plenty of ho, ho, ho. Anyone with even the smallest tendency to bah humbug should look away now; the show is unapologetically sentimental and nostalgic. After all, this is the time of year we can all embrace clichés comfortably and the 1954 film the show is adapted from is one of those very clichés.

The story, for what it’s worth, sees former soldiers Bob and Phil, now successful Broadway stars, saving their old general’s hotel by – you’ve guessed it – putting on a show. It helps that the receptionist at the inn is a Mermanesque singer and that the general’s granddaughter is a budding performer. The proceedings cement Bob and Phil’s relationships with two other performers, siblings Betty and Judy, and serve as a framework for many a hit tune: Blue Skies, I Love A Piano, Let Yourself Go and, for Betty and Judy of course, Sisters.

White Christmas has already toured successfully, so it runs very smoothly indeed, but it’s a perfect fit for the West End. And it’s nice to be back in the grand space of the Dominion after many years away. It was the home of We Will Rock You (which, for the record, I didn’t think was that bad) and the shows are as camp and silly as each other.

Taking the lead roles are Aled Jones and Tom Chambers, capably joined by Rachel Stanley and Louise Bowden as their love interests. Wendi Peters has a gift of a role as Martha and seems very happy with it, belting out the numbers with aplomb. Jones doesn’t seem all that comfortable on stage. It’s a shame he can’t do much with the comedy in the piece, but he’s really there to sing and you can’t fault him there. Chambers is more impressive, looking great and dancing very well indeed – it strikes me he had an unfair advantage on Strictly, he’s a real pro.

It’s the dancing in the piece that really makes White Christmas worth seeing. Aided by a fine orchestra with a big band feel and making the most of a large ensemble, choreographer Randy Skinner makes the show feel value for money and something to leave the TV for over Christmas. Seasonal appeal lets the production get away with a lot of schmaltz, but there’s just enough of a story to keep you going and plenty to dazzle, right up to a climax, which includes a whatever the collective noun should be for silly jumpers.

Until 3 January 2015