THEATRE REVIEW: Torch Song starring Matthew Needham and Dino Fetscher at the Turbine Theatre

WORTH A LOOK?: ****

WHERE? Turbine Theatre RUNTIME: 150 minutes (with a 20-minute interval)

WHEN? 25/8, opens 6/9 and runs to 13/10/19

Welcome to London’s newest theatre at a venue close to Battersea Power Station which we last visited in the late 90s for a pop gig starring Robbie Williams, Gary Barlow and All Saints.

  • Read on for reasons including what Su Pollard and Years and Years actor Maxim Baldry were doing here

Harvey Fierstein wrote Torch Song Trilogy, as a collection of 3 plays in which he starred as a Jewish drag queen and torch singer finding his way in New York in the 1970s and 80s.

This significantly revised version took its bow off Broadway in 2017 before a Broadway transfer which we caught at the tail end of last year.

Ugly Betty star Michael Urie made for a comic if clean-cut Arnold Beckoff in the recent Broadway version and it is Matthew Needham (pictured right above) in that part who is revelatory here.

We caught him in Summer And Smoke last year opposite an Olivier Award-winning performance from Patsy Ferran and we weren’t especially convinced but his Arnold is far more complex, knotty and convincing than Urie’s and much more in keeping with Fierstein’s.

For those unfamiliar with the source material (also an acclaimed 1988 film) we meet Beckoff as he encounters bisexual schoolteacher Ed (Dino Fetscher, pictured left above from Years and Years) who is very much the straight foil for Arnold’s outrageous comic creation.

This production doesn’t actually open until early next month so it’s perhaps unfair to compare casts but we felt Bernice Stegers as the whirlwind Ma wasn’t quite the match for Broadway legend Mercedes Ruehl but Jay Lycurgo as Arnold’s adopted son David was a sparky breath of fresh air.

We’ve been shortlisting our greatest theatrical performances of the year so far and we’d definitely put Needham’s here into our top 5.

The Turbine is an intimate 125-seater venue and we were delighted that it boasted a Theatre Cafe, Su Pollard was sitting with friends outside and that Years and Years actor Maxim Baldry joined us in the audience for this fine revival.

If it can keep up this quality of the material it puts on, we’d love to hurry back here to the Turbine for a 2nd visit soon.

  • Picture by Mark Senior via Facebook courtesy Turbine Theatre. Tickets
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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