Review: The MP, Aunty Mandy & Me, King’s Head Theatre

The MP, Aunty Mandy & Me proves an insightful and interesting one-man show at the King’s Head Theatre

“It’s not him I’m worried about”

As the possessor of an actual Aunty Mandy (*waves*, it’s been too long…), how could I resist a play entitled The MP, Aunty Mandy & Me? And now that I know what Aunty Mandy stands for in this context, I can’t help but feel slightly grubby and sorry that I brought her up ? (disco biscuits by another euphemism). I’m not sorry that I caught this one-man show though, writer/performer Rob Ward coming up with a deliciously complex tale of a young gay man’s awakening.

Our protagonist is Dom (by name, if not by nature), a would-be Instagay influencer stymied only by living in a close-knit northern village, with his mum, suffering panic attacks, and being a fan of steam trains. He’s got the nous to try and pass off a Matalan suit as a Paul Smith one but his crippling social anxiety means trips to the big city, with the “real gays”, feel like a far-off dream. An encounter with a local MP changes all that, as an internship draws him out of his shell, but politicians being who they are (for the most part, it would seem), it’s a baptism of fire into this new world.

Though The MP, Aunty Mandy & Me clearly deals with some weighty subject matter, it is also a delightfully witty character study. Affectionately riffing on the ‘regional gay’ trope, Ward has fun in fleshing out Dom’s character quirks whilst simultaneously pointing up that the longed-for metropolitan gay lifestyle isn’t always the wisest thing to aspire to. A similar pleasing complexity accompanies Dom’s ostensibly problematic relationship with MP Peter.

The unequal power dynamic both in terms of employment and (gay) education means that there’s an inevitable hint of sleaze at play here. But as Dom is introduced to the world of fetish clubs and the possibilities of actual romance now his horizons have been expanded, there’s also this notion of the benefits of gaining experience, lessons to be learned from the rough and the smooth as Ward proves unafraid to tackle an authentic take on gay subculture.

Clive Judd’s considered direction really helps to nail that sense of authenticity, the emotional openness that can come in trying something new, the delicious disorientation of taking something new, the comfort that comes in finding a community. Will Monks’ lighting design is superbly wrought, truly transportative on the limited stage here and the cumulative creative effect is one that enhances the storytelling no end. Insightful and interesting.

Running time: 70 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Pamela Raith Photography
The MP, Aunty Mandy & Me is booking at King’s Head Theatre until 4th June

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