About a Goth

Sat 5th – Sat 19th August 2017

reviews

Katherine Knight

at 12:15 on 11th Aug 2017

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I didn’t envisage myself writing the phrase “If only my jizz was as dark as my soul” at any point in my life, but this is just a highlight in a long series of memorable lines which grace this engaging solo act. Incredibly charismatic, frequently humorous, and lastly, vulnerable, it is a joy from start to finish. ‘About a Goth’ promotes itself as a coming of age story centred around Nick, our very goth, very gay protagonist. Still, nothing can quite prepare you for the one-man tour de force which is Clement Charles, playing not only himself (if you’d forgive the expression) but transforming before your eyes into all of his family members, passers-by, the old man at the care home, and, in one of the earliest and most effective performances, his brusquely straight friend Greg. And these characterisations never slip. Charles regularly has conversations with himself, transforming his entire demeanour – voice, body language and all – into characters which seem frankly absurd in a goth’s garish getup.

Tom Wells’ one-liners are too numerous to mention. Nick is so obviously a character hiding behind a façade, and his attempt to retain this Gothic intensity occasionally lapses, to equally comic effect – he can’t quite hide his joy as he squeals “Ooh! Starbucks!”. He is often determinedly miserable but, more importantly, intensely likable, and has the audience warm to him from the start. Laughter can be heard throughout the room from the opening set piece. When Charles first removes his belt, a sense of foreboding occurs as the promised nudity makes an appearance. This oddness only increases as the piece continues, to little apparent effect – and yet it is of credit to the performance’s direction that it builds towards an inevitable end. As such, none of this feels purposeless – and while the ‘partial nudity’ which was warned of in the description at one point feels in fear of becoming something more, you realise that this isn’t the end goal. The nudity isn’t a simple gimmick – in a play all about image, it is incredibly symbolic, and the moment that this is explicitly revealed is one of the most satisfying.

One of the most skilful components is the use of voice, and it is this which displays the vulnerability in Charles’s character. For the most part it is brash, confident, and camp, only breaking in order to switch persona; and yet later in the performance, it is one of the greatest indicators of emotional development. To explain more would be to give too much away, but the director is key in understanding that the transformation of growing up is not merely physical – and it is through this change in voice that emotional maturation can be conveyed to greatest effect.

This is a show full of talent. It is a talent, indeed, to remove your underwear with your teeth (I do have several questions) and dance so winningly to Britney; it is also a talent to convey such an engaging character, full of bravado, and have him slowly become more human before our eyes. And this is exactly what has been achieved. A winning performance.

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Abi Newton

at 14:28 on 11th Aug 2017

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“If only my jizz was as dark as my soul,” bemoans Nick, a “very gay and goth” seventeen-year-old, as he slumps in his vintage armchair under black duvet covers. This sets the playful, bawdy tone for the rest of ‘About a Goth’, a monologue by Tom Wells about a teenage boy trying to understand a world he does not quite fit into. Gritty Theatre’s Clement Charles’ delivery in the starring role is as intense as his electric blue fringe, and he bounces around the stage for a full forty-five minutes, not letting up until the play is over. His control in performing not only the main character, but the ruthlessly sharp caricatures of the people in Nick’s life, is masterful, perfectly capturing the essence of people like them everyone knows in their own lives – everyone, that is, who has at some point owned the same snarky arrogance as Nick.

It’s also completely hilarious – Nick’s dry, morbid quips on the nature of life and death are juxtaposed with hysterically funny dance scenes, teenage hesitancy slipping away and replaced with the urge to cavort oneself in front of potential romantic partners – even if the potential is about as miniscule as the comparative size of a single person within the context of the known universe. But despite his unabashed internal vitriol for the people who surround him, Nick grows into more and more of a likable character as the play goes on, his emotional depth becoming more and more obvious. It’s a bittersweet show, because as funny and over-exaggerated as his emotional outbursts seem, you realise they’re real for the person who is feeling them. This is the antidote to teenage angst – to realise that one’s worries are often unrealistic, without dismissing the pain in feeling them.

It is very important that Nick is gay, and that his gayness is integral to the course of the play. Being a queer teenager is a very specific experience that is different for everyone who goes through it, but this show speaks to astounding obstinacy one encounters when explaining what a hate crime is, the bafflingly absurdity of being matched up with the only other queer person your straight friend happens to know, and the agony of falling in love with someone you know will never, ever love you back. Queer narratives are at best underrepresented and at worst unrepresentative, so one like this which hits the mark both in its outrageous hilarity and sensitive vulnerability is something to celebrate.

I’d say this show wasn’t for the faint-hearted, but I wouldn’t want to tell anyone this show wasn’t for them. For those who relate to what Nick tells us, it’s an acknowledgement that what you felt then or are feeling now is real. For those who cannot, it is an opportunity to learn. The definition of grit on the Gritty Theatre’s website speaks of “raw endurance,” and there is a raw quality in the humanity Nick – knowingly or not – tries and fails to disguise under layers of sarcasm and vintage black silk. This is a must-see show about growing to be comfortable with the person you are and, in doing so, the world you inhabit and everything in it.

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