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Terrific Torch Song Trilogy

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The Menier Chocolate Factory's Torch Song Trilogy is one of those plays you see in preview that despite odd moments of visible nerves and a dialogue stumble you know it is just going to fly given a few more performances to bed in.

In cutting the original trilogy of plays down to one of around 2 and a half hours (that's a guesstimate as I didn't check the time when it finished) you lose some of the detail and the middle play, I don't think, quite establishes the depth of protagonist Arnold's relationship with Alan. 

But I jump slightly ahead, the three plays have been edited to three neat acts each following drag queen Arnold (David Bedella) through the trials and tribulations of his search for true love.

At the start of the first act he is disillusioned with love having had a string of unrequited love affairs. He meets confused bisexual Ed  (Joe McFadden) in a bar and things all seem to be going well for once when Ed dumps him for Laurel (Laura Pyper). 

Over the course of the next act Ed flits in and out of Arnold's life as does Laurel culminating in a visit to the couple's holiday home with his new beau Alan (Tom Rhys Harries) when all get to say what's on their mind.

The final part sees Arnold adopting gay teen David (Perry Millward), resisting the advances of Ed who is confused, again, and dealing with a visit from his un-approving and overbearing mother (Sara Kestelman).

Arnold, when he first bounded onto the stage back in the late 70s and early 80s, would have no doubt surprised audiences, challenging gay stereotypes, with his desire to find a meaningful relationship and have a family. Today with civil partnerships common place and celeb gay couples such as Elton John adopting it doesn't really raise an eyebrow.

However, his mother's reaction to his homosexuality and the adoption together with the fate of Alan is something that, I'm sure, still resonates 30 years on far more than it should and as a result Torch Song doesn't feel particularly dated.  

It is good story told with wit, humour and poignancy and a Stan-friendly number of songs. In chopping the three stories into one, what you lack in depth is certainly made up for in pace with never a slack moment.

The staging mixes between conventional and the less so with a rather imaginative use of an over-sized double bed in the weekend away scene.

There are strong performances throughout particularly from Bedella and I just loved Perry Millward's precocious and cheeky David so much I want to take him home in my pocket and feed him cake.

Must also mention Tom Rhys Harries who graduates from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama this Summer, definitely someone to keep an eye on.

I'm going to give Torch Song a strong 4 stars, so strong it's on the cusp of five, but not quite. I'm sure if I saw it again, later in the run, it would get five.

The Torch Song Trilogy runs at the Menier Chocolate Factory until August 12. Get tickets as I think it's going to be popular.

* And just a tip on seating, the Menier is a small theatre so you are never going to get a rubbish view but if you are sat in the front two/three rows at either end, the set juts out close to the front row and very occassionally the action takes place at these points. As a result you have to painfully crick your neck to see what is going on if it is at the opposite side of the stage. You can't not see anything, it's just not the best angle to watch from so if you can get more central seats, then all the better. 

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I'm really pleased with this one because I don't think I've got to use the film Perfume: Story of a Murderer much before. But little Perry Millward was in it, as was the wonderful Mr W who, of course, played the lead Grenouille.

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