Monday, 20 June 2016

Review The Donkey Show - A Midsummer Night's Disco

The Donkey Show - A Midsummer Night's Disco
Created by Randy Weiner and Diane Paulus

To Sleep, Perchance to Boogie 

If there were twentieth century equivalents of Greek myths, New York's Studio 54 would surely qualify as Mount Olympus. For there 1970s' celebrity gods and goddesses, including one Donald Trump,  in the era between the Pill and Aids, reigned supreme with alcohol and other "nectar"on tap and entered into the stuff of legend.

Such goings on have undergone a transmogrification into an immersive, raunchy disco version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream", The Donkey Show,   "something rich and strange" (ok, wrong play, right author). Or as one New York Times critic put it "A Donna Summer Night's Dream".

Originating in New York, it  has now landed again this side of the pond at The Proud in Camden.  Created by husband and wife team, Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner with members of their theatre company Project 400, The Donkey Show ran for six years off-Broadway  and then had a spell (geddit?!) at the Edinburgh Festival and in London.

How pleased Donald Trump would be to be linked, however tangentially, to lust-fuelled mortals in  a performance bearing the same icon as that of the Democratic Party and a Mexican sex show, who knows?  

Still, TLT and her own little motorised glitterball joined the groundlings punters at Oberon's Club complete with a Master/Mistress of Ceremonies, a splendidly sequinned and  roller skating Lady Puck (James Gillan) with a giant -- oh, you'll have to go along to Camden to find out about that oversize thingymajig ... ;)

It's enormous fun with appropriately for the Dream, a bawdy hen and stag night atmosphere appealing to a mixed age group and under 18 tailored performances available at an earlier time on Saturday and Sundays. 

Yet don't look and listen for Shakespeare's verses flowing like drinks from the bar. 

All that blank verse is replaced by a string of 70s' disco hits, but these prove more than a gimmick. For they make for a surprisingly clear small-scale Midsummer Night's Dream and just as much a tribute to the throbbing music and story telling in the lyrics of disco era songs as the power of the Bard's plotting. "Don't Leave Me This Way", "I'm your Boogie Man", "Knock on Wood", "It's Raining Men", "You Sexy Thing" and "We Are Family" to name but a few.

The story is obviously simplified and Bottom becomes doubled (maybe after taking some of the copious amounts of substances on offer to the characters) into two goofy toothed Vinnies (Siobhan Athwal and Bronté Barbé) garbed in  the garish colours of a Mad Magazine cover, seducing gymnatically supple Tytania (Melissa Bayern).

Helena becomes bespectacled Helen (Bronté Barbé again - sorta Rosemary in Hong Kong Phooey). Demetrius, hey that's Dimitri (Siobhan Athwal again, but like the 70s comedy Soap, confused, you won't be?!) is the sleaze for whom the more demure but determined Helen has a pash. But he is after curly blondy curvy Mia (Vikki Stone who also becomes bearded owner Oberon with shades and cigar in hand).  

OK, Club Oberon et al is essentially now a franchise with the original having started its run in 1999 but this potion has a definite potency hooked in the fantastical reality of Studio 54. After all, didn't one of the two founders reportedly make something, some might say, of an ass of himself by declaring publicly, "The profits are astronomical, only the Mafia does it better". Uh, oh ... Cue raid by tax authorities ... 

There's some mild, perfectly comfortable interaction between the bronzed, cupid-like fairies and we customers. It's standing throughout (including the male/female security officer on stilts who you must look up to - boom, boom!). 

How to resist an entertaining hour of a shake-and-boogie-on-down peer into a hallucinogenic classic using New York excess clubbing during its bankrupt times without which, surely, we would never had that British 70's classic The Stud. It's a "it is what it is" green light from TLT.

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