Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review: 'Boy's Club' at Jackson's Lane, 12th July 2017

Boy's Club reviewed by David James

Rating: 4 Stars

I know gender is performative, but I've never seen it performed this entertainingly. Boy's Club is the creation of Sharlit Deyzac and Leonor Lemée and is a spiffy hour of comedy during which we careen from extreme masculinity to extreme femininity in a hail of simulated semen, menstrual blood and gold glitter.

The show introduces us to a pair of out of work actresses who will "do anything to get on stage". Faced with a casually sexist theatre world bereft of satisfying roles for women and with producers unwilling to book an all-female act, there's only one path left open. They must masquerade as men. And not 'Jules and Jo' are not just any men, they're lads, blokes, cock-up-your-beaver, catcallers, lip-curlers, big blue balls bulging with babybatter. As Sinitta so memorably put it, they're so macho.

This is masculinity turned up to 11 and for a while, it looks as though the girls are going to get away with their deception. But then... something occurs that reveals the truth and they're required to improvise. And so the needle swings from testosterone to oestrogen and the cabaret act morphs into a feminist political protest.

You can tell that Deyzac and Lemée are top class performers the moment they step on stage. Leaving aside their caricature behaviour, their male drag is utterly convincing. If they were standing at a bus stop or ordering a drink in a pub, you'd assume they were dudes. And so they swagger about the stage with the crotches thrust forward, stomping the boards and flashing sharkteeth smiles at the women in the audience. It's a hilariously bestial distillation of masculinity, the two sniffing the air as they hunt for quivering quims.

They're so much fun as men that, when the gender compass switches poles, there's a hell of a whiplash. Suddenly the grimacing fuckmachine is simpering from within frills and pigtails, giving us the full bimbo to P!nk's Slut Like You.  That someone can believably embody both extremes of the gender spectrum within an hour and change before our eyes is an efficient demonstration of just how fluid gender can be in the hands of talented performers.

And, naturally, Boy's Club is uproariously funny. The duo has the casual yet precise stage presence that comes with professional training, combining elements of dance, stand-up, clowning and audience interaction. Sure, the show's humour, with its focus on bodily fluids, gross-out gags and grotesque over-sexiness isn't exactly highbrow but it put a smile on my face from start to finish.

But, under the bonnet, there's a lot more going on than a bunch of dick jokes. While the overheated male caricatures are funny, the fact that they reflect reality is pretty depressing. It must be a fucking nightmare having to put up with bozos like this in real life, tossing out crap chat-up lines and strutting around like they own the place. While they're doing this there are a couple of pointed lines - in a 'chat up the audience bit', Deyzac's character slyly says that he'll be walking behind them as they go home that night. Eek.

Things snowball into a political protest about women being paid less for men for doing the same job, their argument incredibly pointed considering they've been doing a better job being men than most men do. This devolves into chaotic protest until the sound of sirens.

Unfortunately this the fly in the ointment. Up to this point, the show is taut as hell, bouncing between various numbers and stand-up sequences. But, by the end, things have unwound a bit. It's probably a bad sign when you have to repeatedly apologise to the audience for taking so long to get the show moving again. 

But by that point, Deyzac and Lemée have built up more than enough audience goodwill to see them through to the final curtain. I've been a bit down on theatre lately - having had a rough couple of weeks of shows that have been some unfortunate combination of boring, stupid and unfunny. Boy's Club is a cut above the rest and left me zipping down from Highgate with a silly grin plastered over my face.

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