Torch Song Trilogy (Menier Chocolate Factory)

Posted on June 12, 2012


Phew… just when I thought all the drag queens were being ushered off the stage.

After a rush of drag on the West End, things were looking a little… straight, but they’re back! A sequel, in a way, to the Chocolate Factory’s ‘La Cage aux Folles‘, the company turns to Harvey Fierstein‘s earlier work ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ which sees the return of ‘La Cage‘ star Douglas Hodge, this time as director.

I adored ‘La Cage‘, but without Hodge it lacked a certain humanity. With him now behind the scenes, I fear ‘Torch Song‘ left me a little dragged out. But comparisons between the two are somewhat unfair, for all the surface similarities these are very different pieces.

You want plot? Well okay, but you know, spoilers sweety! Here we have a classic tale of boy meets boy, boy loses boy to a Christian girl, boy find another boy, boy loses second boy to homophobic violence, boy gets adopted boy & first boy back but (maybe) loses his mother. Not conventional.

The finale of the piece, with Arnold’s big, empowering speech is worth the price of admission alone!

David Bedella is not one of my favourite performers, I find him to be a little fake, a little too drag-queen -esque. Of course here in the role of Arnold, it works to his advantage and this is probably the best I’ve seen him. His performance in the final act, is simply beautiful.

Joe McFadden is charming, in a dim witted way, as the bisexual Ed. But the lack of chemistry between the two makes the first two acts of this trilogy slightly plodding. Tom Rhys Harries is charming (and damn sexy) and manages to make twinky Alan more sincere than I would have though possible.

Despite the fact it is full of sexual trysts and diva showdowns the second act of this trilogy is probably the weakest. The staging felt forced and slightly awkward as the two couples mingle and intertwine.

Things however are elevated by a third act that is simply divine.  Sara Kestelman & Perry Millward breathe new life into the show. Millward grates in all the right ways as Arnold’s adopted son – his injection into the play is as abrupt & jarring as it is into Arnold’s life, but it is his charm & innocence that win us over. Kestelman plays heartache, outrage and fire so beautifully you can not help but sympathise even though disagreeing with her.

The finale of the piece, with Arnold’s big, empowering speech is worth the price of admission alone!

Torch Song Trilogy‘ is rightly admired for it’s complexity and depiction of gay life (in the 70s/80s), and it is its choice to step away from giving too many easy resolutions that makes it an interesting piece.

Oh and nice touches in the set design and use of space, just another example of how versatile and talented the team at the Menier are.

Verdict: A fun night out. A good night out. And a an important piece of theatre. Oh shut up and book already!


Posted in: Play