Angels in Erotica at Returners’ Showcase: ‘firework of jokes’

By Marie Louise

Angels in Erotica was one of the breakout scripts of this years Fringe Festival, gathering five-star-reviews from a variety of reviewers – though God himself (portrayed by Dan Hodgkinson) does remind all reviewers to leave good reviews at the beginning of the play. And who would dare to disagree with God? After all, He appears to enjoy flooding the earth and smiting. Or does he? Freddie Drewer’s writing leaves God rather annoyed at his scary, “typecast” image, and sets off to change it.

Who better to help him change it than Cupid? According to this show, the answer is: a variety of people. This enjoyably gay version of God is fond of erotic fiction and bad boys, and so he chooses his new Messiah in Rachel (Alex Hannant), a fan fiction author on the saucier side of things. Yes, you get to see some of these fanfictions, acted out with great pleasure (get it?) by Olivia Manning and Hamish Inglis.

Freddie Drewer’s script starts off with a firework of jokes and references, though the pop-culture references are possibly aimed a little too much at an audience of university students. Of course, this worked well with the student-heavy audience in The Assembly Rooms. We all love a good joke about Madonna or Ru Paul’s Drag Race, but other age groups might miss a few of the references. Overall, the play is well-paced, though it turns rather philosophical in what feels like an awkwardly added scene after the “grand finale”.

The show, as one would expect, enjoys poking fun at Christianity and its various subgroups, advertising itself with the slogan “God is gay and the new messiah is a woman”, and recommending polyamorous relationships, anyone enjoying themselves will probably get to hang out with “Lucy”, or Lucifer Mr. Devil, a little more, but after seeing Olivia Manning’s portrayal of them, that doesn’t seem like such a bad option. Who doesn’t want a good bad boy in a leather jacket?

Rachel certainly does want a bad boy, as she creates Moody Blues (the hero of the pen, portrayed by Max Lindon), and Edwardio (the hero of Spanish, Shakira, and swords, portrayed by Nick Denton), who, like the rest of the cast, play their roles with visible enjoyment. Millie Blair portrays the sardonic onlooker well and grounds a play that sometimes feels like it’s running away from its plot like a dog distracted by some exciting meat. Alex Hannant, Hamish Inglis, Olivia Manning, and Dan Hodgkinson are divine in their roles, owning every silly thing that comes out of their mouths, and every bit of glitter on their costumes and bodies. All of them, though especially Alex Hannant, entertain the audience with amazing facial expressions both when speaking and when not, giving the comedy an extra layer.

The Assembly Rooms stage feels a little too large for the play, and both set and actors sometimes sink into a black sea, though the size of the stage gives a comedic poignance to Cupid on stage arguing with the voice of God coming through the speakers. Co-Directors Freddie Drewer and Hamish Inglis have blocked the scenes well, leaving the characters room to move, yet giving their movement purpose. Hidden throughout the staging appear to be some hints at popular religious images. Well, at least I thought so, but if I imagined the pose resembling the Birth of Venus by Botticelli, someone let me know.

Kitty Briggs (producer and technician) does excellently with the stage lights, changing the atmosphere at just the right moments to make the funny scenes funnier, and the saucy scenes, well, saucier.

An amusing, well-timed play with tropes and twists (and a somewhat-demeaning-term-for-gay-men-that-also-starts-with-T), I sincerely hope that this play goes on to become at least mythology. Moody Blues, the dramatic poet, would frown at the large audiences Angels in Erotica drew, but even he’d have to agree – if “art is the soul singing”, then comedy is the soul laughing, and the audiences’ souls definitely were last night!

Photograph: Pheonix Theatre productions 

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