The Turbine Theatre, a charming venue under the tunnels at what used to be Battersea Power Station is currently home to a new revival of Harvey Fierstein’s story of love and loss.
Torch Song, the landmark play from the Tony Award winning writer, set in Seventies Manhattan could easily have been set in London in 2019. The funny and more often than not heartbreakingly sad story is a familiar one to many but not often found on the stage. Directed by Olivier Award winning Drew McOnie, the plays are rendered in three acts: International Stud, Fugue in a Nursery and Widows and Children First!, the story is of Arnold Beckoff, a gay Jewish drag queen living in New York. Beginning with a soliloquy (the sole soliloquy in the play) on his disillusionment with love, it is course this, that drives the action.
Intenational Stud focuses on the object of Arnold’s (Matthew Needham) affections. Ed (Dino Fetscher) is a young teacher, uncomfortable with his bisexuality and desperately trying to find some comfort. Set in a gay bar (the name International Stud takes its name from an actual gay bar in Greenwich Village) the backroom plays a central role, with Ed toying and froing with an invisible paramour. Fetscher is utterly convincing with a young man that is awkward and uncomfortable with almost everything - his handsomeness, his conversations with strangers and trying to find what he is seeking. The interplay between the buff and awkward Fetscher and string bean slim and self assured Needham is the plays strongest suit, with both actors doing a stellar job of making tough life choices come to life. Fugue in a Nursery moves into Noel Coward territory as both of the main men make choices to try and find happiness, whilst Women and Children First! closes with the outcome of those decisions. It also moves time forwards considerably, introduces two new characters at a relatively late stage and in our opinion, jars somewhat, in that it feels like a different production to the first two acts. It does present an interesting light on the mother - son relationship and how Arnold copes with the intolerance and disrespect that he encounters.
Tickets from £33. From now until 13 October 2019 at The Turbine Theatre, London.