By Aline Mahrud
WORTH A LOOK?: **** RUNTIME: 75 minutes (no interval)
WHEN?: Sunday 5 December (matinee), ran until Sunday 12 December 2021
Khan plays 20-year-old Quasim, the titular very special guest star, who has been invited home by middle-aged couple Michael and Phil to spice up their sex life.
- Read on for reasons including how this has been shortlisted as Best New Play in our 7th annual monstas
But was the young refugee’s approach to the couple in a club as innocent as it might have 1st appeared?
Edd Muruako’s Phil shows off his dad dancing to Quasim after the youngster says he’s never heard of Prince.
While Alan Turkington’s Michael takes off his shirt as he encourages Quasim to strip down to his boxers, at 1 point baring his bottom to the audience as the youngster demonstrates how he hitchhiked and picked up passing squaddies for sex while doing so.
We didn’t feel comfortable reviewing this interesting new play shortly after seeing it because there is a much-anticipated big twist which seems very unlikely and is allowed to hang there for a while as the couple debate its possibility.
London-based couple Phil and Michael come from such more privileged backgrounds than their ‘very special guest star’ and the debate the pair have about how lucky they are can’t help but resonate with what appears to be a packed audience of predominantly gay middle-aged men in this suburb of the capital, a world away from anywhere where it is illegal to be gay.
The scars dominating Quasim’s back provide a chilling reminder that a light-hearted pick up in a London club might have frightening ramifications and spark questions that are difficult to answer.
We’re reminded by the writing of how fellow Clapham resident Armistead Maupin was able to use the easy social movement of the homosexual world to flip effortlessly between classes in Tales Of The City as Charles Dickens had done in a far less gay way many years before him.
The more we think about Very Special Guest Star, the more we think that its central idea is flawed. But the fact that we continue to think about it many days after seeing it proves it must be doing something right.
Muruako and Turkington make for an engaging, entertaining, occasionally comic and thoughtful couple while Khan is suitably enigmatic as the charasmatic stranger that the audience can’t help but be drawn in.
We also loved how the venue used its actual windows to look out onto Clapham, provoking much interest from passers-by, as Quasim even used 1 to exit the stage at 1 point.
We thought Very Special Guest Star was so deserving of a wider audience that we’d like to see it return to this venue in 2022 – or perhaps transfer to an even bigger one.
You can vote for it to win our Best New Play monsta here.