Above The Stag Theatre, London – until 26 August 2018
In an ingenious conceit, Erik Ransom’s show embodies the Grindr app into a Mephistophelian being who wields a strange, yet credible power over all who engage with the software. It transpires that Ransom’s vision translates perfectly to musical theatre with this sung-through “opera” proving to be one of the most refreshing examples of new writing to grace London’s stages in quite some time.
Four men interact with Grindr and strike up liaisons. Throughout, Grindr’s magnetic attraction (ultimately, addiction?) is never far from the surface, with Christian Lunn putting in a strong and perfectly sung performance as the human face of the infernally addictive app.
The tale’s four Grindr users straddle the ages – ranging from 20-somethings through to mid-fifties – with a sprinkling of bisexuality in amongst the gay. The scenarios that play out appear credible and convincing and even if the play’s denouement is a belief-defying hokum it nonetheless ties the story into a very tight narrative.
The casting of the four (take a bow casting director Harry Blumenau) is immaculate. In decreasing order of age Dereck Walker, David Malcolm, Matthew Grove and William Spencer are, in equal measure, all on top form, with their respective arcs taking them through lust, passion, love, deceit and hypocrisy.
The show’s comedy is perfectly delivered, while its pathos is painful. The libretto’s political digs against the Tory-right may be a bit cliched (even as this review is typed, a senior Labour politician cum washing machine salesman is still in the news over his drug-fuelled rent-boy antics) but the songs work, the rhymes are clever, the musical sources are many and the whole thing cracks along under the experienced baton of Aaron Clingham and his three-piece band.
There are echoes here of Jerry Springer The Opera. Grand human designs played out to lyrics of utter filth and sometimes scorching wit. Running through most of August in Above The Stag’s new railway arch home (air conditioned and brilliantly laid out it must be said), Grindr – The Opera is great theatre!