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The Green Room Theatre Books

Thursday 16th October 2008

Itís been a busy few weeks for Peter Bull, artistic director of the Above the Stag Theatre in Bressenden Place, SW1. So, youíve spotted two intriguing aspects of that last statement? Firstly, why havenít I heard of the Above the Stag Theatre and secondly, only a few weeks? Well, none of us (or very few) had heard of this central London fringe venue because it held its press opening last night. As for the weeks? That is how long it has taken to turn an upstairs function room above a famous gay pub in Londonís Victoria into a fully functioning fifty-seat performance space with sound, lights, dressing room, box office, the works.

Bull and his team have worked night and day to meet the target of opening their inaugural production of American Briefs on the 28 October. Satisfying the requirements of fire officers and safety inspectors was the biggest challenge. By some miracle, they have pulled it off.

American Briefs, as the title suggests, has a decidedly gay slant. Directed by Bull, American Briefs represents a selection of six short plays by established American writers, each reinterpreted and Anglicized for its London audience. Leon Ancliffe, Gareth ap Watkins, Richard Gee and Graham Townsend act all six plays over the course of the evening.

Above the Stag Theatre might be one of the few overtly gay theatre venues in the capital, but as Bull vigorously notes, that should not prevent theatregoers of any sexual persuasion enjoying their productions. Indeed, as a taster of their heady mix of repertory Ė from burlesque (a particularly glamorous drag artiste greeted us at the door), through circus entertainment, and on to straight (or gloriously not-so-straight) plays Ė last night we were treated to a sensual and funny pas de deux by two young cowhands which was greeted with genuine enthusiasm by all.

In these times of financial and social insecurity it is refreshing to find people so willing to invest their money, time and energy into a new theatrical venture. Whether this indicates the strength of the pink pound to weather the economic storms ahead, or is simply a way of ensuring an alternative voice is heard in the London fringe scene, is unclear. What is clear is that Above the Stag Theatre is set to open its doors later this month and inject its own self-professedly Ďcampí mix of theatre into Londonís artistic veins.

© Kevin Quarmby 2008

  • American Briefs runs at the Above the Stag Theatre 28 October to 23 November 2008.

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