Dirty White Boy: Tales of Soho
Not long ago Clayton Littlewood began writing a diary about visitors to Dirty White Boy, the designer clothes shop he ran with partner Jorge, situated in the heart of Soho, where Old Compton Street and Dean Street nudge shoulders.
The diary became a 'blog' (a shared on-line journal) enjoying a cult following, was published as a book and was then followed by readings that planted the seeds for a stage adaptation, the result of which (following successful trials in 2009) is now presented here under the auspices of award-winning director Phil Willmott, with Littlewood as amiable narrator, and running at just under two hours.
Characters are brought to funny-poignant and vibrant life by stage, radio and television actor David Benson whose skilled quick-change personas gave the impression of a cast of actors rather than just the one.
We hear the pleasures and pains of customers who became good friends such as Leslie, love-hating for forty years the man who spurned him; Angie, 'transitioning' from man to woman; big-spender Chico, with a good heart and bad judgment in boys; and an art dealer with a predilection for thongs.
Dialogue and vignettes are punctuated by the husky yet mellifluous voice of Alexis Gerred in a professional West End debut that heralds great things: that he came second in this year's TV hunt for our Eurovision Song Contest representative can only be good news if he can be showcased in this way.
The original, deadpan delivery of 'Rent' by Pet Shop Boys makes much more sense in this context, with the reprise ('I love you: you pay my ') delivered with snarling disdain: contestants in the current search for a new 'Dorothy' and expected to transform 'pop' lyrics into musical theatre should stop by and take notes.
Studio 2 at the Trafalgar Studios has an intimate feel that is perfect for recollections, revelations and anecdotes. With the exception of a few 'in' jokes, the comedy is accessible to all who are open to the world of queens, pimps, rent boys, madams, and hookers.
Much can change in a short time: the shop has closed (a recession victim), MySpace (where this all began for Littlewood) has been largely eclipsed by Facebook and tweets, and many straight women have crushes on gay men, no doubt thanks to the Christian and Syed storyline in EastEnders. I didn't meet my John Partridge last night, but I did have a fabulous time.
Reviewer: Anita-Marguerite Butler