Review: Torch Song Trilogy, Turbine Theatre

The Turbine Theatre opens with a production of 80s gay classic Torch Song Trilogy

“Just because I said that’s what I want doesn’t mean that’s what I want. I mean, that’s what I want but that doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily ready for it”

I remain unconvinced that what London wants, needs or is ready for is yet another new theatre but regardless, the Turbine Theatre is here, lurking under the arches in the shadow of Battersea Power Station like a cross between the Menier Chocolate Factory and the Union Theatre.

Its opening salvo is a production of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy, directed by Drew McOnie in his straight play debut and in terms of appealing to – indeed finding – a new core audience (in lieu of the community of people who will actually live in this new development, heading for the gays makes for a wise choice.

A seminal classic from the 1980s gay theatre canon, this version is edited down from the 4+ hours of the original, as it follows the life of Jewish drag queen Arnold Beckoff as he navigates the late 70s and early 80s with their hints of social change for the lives of gay men in New York City. 

And that it does relatively effectively. Matthew Needham is in fine form as Arnold, all forlorn flourish in his deep-rooted sadness. And as he moves from lovers to coupledom to [spoiler] parenthood, the world of Arnold’s family is richly depicted, Dino Fetscher as bisexual lover Ed and Jay Lycurgo as the young David both shine. 

It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any flexibility with the stage at the Turbine, McOnie’s direction and Ryan Dawson Laight’s design both suffer a little from the constraints, and the blocking isn’t always optimal. But going to the theatre by boat (the nearest stop is the riverbus!) is something of a treat, so why not spoil yourself.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Mark Senior
Torch Song Trilogy is booking at the Turbine Theatre until 13th October

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