Thursday, May 19, 2016

'The Quentin Dentin Show' at the Arts Theatre, 18th May 2016

My motto is 'never look back'. There's too much exciting new stuff out there to dwell on the past. Best to enjoy a performance, rattle out a review the next morning and consign it to the memory hole. But last night I made an exception.

I last saw The Quentin Dentin Show in January 2015. I liked well enough, but concluded that "A touch more development and this would be something to really write home about." Now, with about a year and half of work done on it, this is show worthy of popping down the Post Office and getting that letter written.

In its current form it's like a high-spec race car: the chassis remains the same but everything else has been tuned up, fiddled with and polished to a mirror sheen. The core of the show is still the relationship difficulties of Nat (Shauna Riley) and Keith (Jamie Tibke). She's a humanitarian pharmacist, he's a promising writer struggling with a novel. We meet them in the midst of a low-level bicker which concludes with Keith being sentenced to sleep on the sofa. We sense that this isn't the first time he's buried his lonely head in these cushions.

Nat and Keith have just sailed beyond the affection event horizon: breakup now all but inevitable. Enter Quentin Dentin (Luke Lane), he's equal parts therapist and game show host, quickly asserting himself as the unhappy couple's only hope. The stage is set for a series of increasingly surreal interventions, in the form of dangerously sexy musical numbers accompanied by Dentin's 'friends' (Felix Denton and Lydia Costello).

The refits, recasting and rejiggles that the show's gone through are all beneficial. Now, the original cast were no slouches, but the sheer amount of talent now stuffed into this show mildly boggles the mind. Shauna Riley and Jamie Tibke play Nat and Keith more broadly than their predecessors, but this amps up the laughs and maintains dramatic tempo. Riley in particular is downright hilarious, her moon-eyed reactions to the supernatural intrusion into her world nearly worth the price of admission alone.

But the star is undoubtedly Luke Lane's Quentin: some unholy fusion of Thin White Duke era Bowie and Dr. Frank-N-Furter. He stalks the stage with a demented grimace carved on his face and some crazy electricity coursing through his veins. Lane really pushes the boat out with this performance: everything from his comic timing to his body language to his audience interaction down to the way he wears a damn suit is top notch. Special praise must go to a later scene when he's losing it: his eye manically twitches and his lip jerks, making him look like a sweatily malfunctioning Terminator.

The tunes also benefit from being beefed up. In the previous version they felt more like interludes in a comedy show. Now this a proper musical, and a pretty banging one at that. Ragged, loose and loud, the style is scruffy garage rock played by a sunglasses wearing band with genuine stage presence and charisma. It's a huge improvement on some accompanying bands I've seen lately - less treble heavy easy-listening and more like a cool gig with a great front-man.

Perhaps the only criticism I can muster is that the ending didn't quite make sense to me, but that's small potatoes considering the amount of fun I had. Writer Henry Carpenter has made some brave decision (not least stepping back from the lead role and letting Lane take over). The choices made are all the right ones: what was already good has been accentuated and what was bad has been pruned away. It pays off gangbusters. Go see it.


The Quentin Dentin Show is at the Arts Theatre until 28 May. Tickets here.

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