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Boys of Paradise

As we were led into a club room in Egg London by ‘revellers’ handing out palmer violets in spare button baggies, I worried that it was going to all be a bit silly. But here’s the thing. Vauxhall is silly.

The seemingly disconnected worlds of opera and party drugs worked perfectly together, the former allowing the exaggerating effects of the latter to captivate without ever feeling preachy. Because the last thing Vauxhall gay clubs need are morals.

We stood for the whole operetta, which runs the risk of draining the audience, especially when the on-stage action is so high octane. Director Anna Pool dealt with this by having us dance for a good 10 minutes with the cast at the start, and continually moving us around the space throughout the piece. It meant we felt part of the action, but more as a sober onlooker than a whacked out clubber; allowing us to take in how bonkers the situation was.

Vahan Salorian and Dominic Kimberlin, composer and librettis respectively, recreated the extremes of the scene brilliantly through their music and words. Salorian’s score didn’t just accentuate the wit, tension and emotion of Kimberlin’s words; it was a storyteller in itself, providing every emotional cue we needed to keep up with the fast-paced drama. At only 22, it’s a very promising indication of how far he could go. Kimberlin’s words accurately reflected the almost embarrassing obsession around drugs, as well as the currency that youth and beauty have on the scene. It’s all fun and games until you recognise a part of you in a flash of the action. It’s in those moments you realise Kimberlin’s commentary through his libretto is as clever as it is entertaining.

With these three at the helm, the cast had the perfect springboard to give huge performances – and they didn’t waste the opportunity. ‘The Fag Hag’s Aria’ was a personal favourite, with Emily Kyte bemoaning the limited pulling opportunities for women at gay clubs to hilarious effect. But each performer did brilliantly well, keeping the energy where it needed to be for the duration.

One of the great things about great theatre is how uplifting it is to see so much talent in one place. That’s exactly what Boys of Paradise delivered. And if you’ve ever been to the Vauxhall gay scene, it also offered a surprisingly accurate insight into your own behaviour.

Words by Josh Lee
Photos by Claire Shovelton

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