Dirty Glitter

Fri 5th – Fri 26th August 2016

reviews

Jessica Cripps

at 08:35 on 14th Aug 2016

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With a name like 'Dirty Glitter', one can't help but start to form opinions of what this show has in store. (Disco! Glitterballs! Sparkles!). I therefore felt completely undercut by the gritty New Yorker accents, violence and the occupation of the private investigator central characters, all located in the height of disco in 1979.

Murphy and Val are two private investigators hired by the family of a missing girl who worked at a thriving club. Murphy (Michael Hawkins), the quiet, intelligent, dedicated investigator progresses the story, while Val (Niall Ross Hogan) is more the sidekick, providing light comedic relief in his give and take with the Spanish-not-Spanish waiter Joe, and his own experiments with drugs.

How do you make what seems to be a homage to disco into a crime scene? Set it in savage Vince Rubell’s hedonistic and drug snorting discotheque. Michael Longhi’s gripping and utterly terrifying performance as club owner Vince is both delightful to watch and utterly infuriating as we watch him violently abuse his lover Minnie (Samantha Walton) into keeping his secrets. This reaction is exactly what Longhi’s performance should conjure: his character has the audience squirming in their seats with disgust, while the actor is entirely likable for his jaw-droppingly believable performance.

What is really effective about this production is the clever staging. Many of the scenes become stills as they conclude and another begins elsewhere on stage. This helps to make Vince an almost constant, menacing presence on stage. The enormous glitterball permanently situated at the back of the stage also becomes an excellent context setter before playing an important part in the conclusion.

It is the audio that played the biggest role in setting the scene. The almost constant disco soundtrack is softened to simulate Vince’s office, made louder to create the dance floor of the club, and only gives way to silence during the perilous climax.

Despite having prepared myself for something a little more glitterball than gunshot, I could appreciate the effects Mike Dickinson has squeezed out of his cast. His script is solid, although heavy with swearing, and often so dense with plot detail that at times it is a struggle to keep up with exactly what was happening.

The breaking of the fourth wall, while a little startling the first time it happened, gave me the feeling that I was watching a Tarantino movie rather than a play. As a result this is perfect for anyone looking for something more gritty than glitty.

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Sebastian Ng

at 11:01 on 14th Aug 2016

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'Dirty Glitter' tells the sordid tale of a missing nightclub girl within the loud and brashly colourful world of 1970s New York disco culture. Private detectives Murphy and Valmont attempt to solve the case, and they strongly suspect it has something to do with the cocky nightclub owner, Vince Rubell. To catch him out, they enlist the help of Rubell’s disgruntled assistant, Minnie. The play is meant to be easy entertainment, harkening to the hard-boiled detective fictions of that era, and without a doubt the production barred no holds in terms of its production design. The costumes and make-up are evocative of the era – seductive dresses for the women, kingpin looks for Rubell, big fake moustache for Valmont, etc. – and the set, which features a peculiarly large disco ball at upstage centre, is efficient for not requiring any set changes at all that might break the flow of the play. Naturally, the entire show is scored wall-to-wall with disco music.

Where it falters for me, personally, is the storytelling. The acting is broad, which by itself is not a problem – asking for nuance and subtlety for a play like this is unjustifiably pretentious – but there is an unimaginative lack of variation. All the actors yell, because apparently volume is the only way to assert power in the scene – annoyed? yell; angry? yell; excited? yell; explaining something? yell – but it has the unfortunate effect of rendering the whole play monotonous. At one point Minnie yells to emphasise ‘A girl’s been killed!’, and I could not care less. Rubell likes to grab women’s hair as a display of masculine superiority, so he does it every other minute, whereby it stops being intimidating and becomes irritating instead.

Then there are the needless inconsistencies: when confronted with the new nightclub girl Karrie, Minnie tells her multiple times that she is not telling Karrie her name, and then tells her five lines later anyway, not because it gives her any advantage or because she is threatened, but just because. The thing is, I am fairly sure there is a way to maintain the same plot, but produce a different play with genuine intrigue, logical consistency, and wittily vulgar dialogue that can draw out interesting performances.

Perhaps the best way to determine whether you might enjoy the play is whether you would, like the audience I was with, laugh at (a) the fact that the clearly gay, Spanish nightclub barman named Joe, at various points of the play, asserts bafflingly that he is none of those things; (b) the over-the-top, effeminate way he delivers his lines. If yes, ignore this review; if not, steer clear of 'Dirty Glitter'.

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