Trafalgar Studios 2, London – until 5 January 2019
You enter a dark basement in the heart of the West End. RuPaul is blaring, lights are flashing and there is dancing. Yet this is not a club. Instead, it’s Hot Gay Time Machine.
What is that, exactly? It’s hot and gay and a time machine, so proclaim co-writers Toby Marlow and Zak Ghati-Torbati (the third member of this creative team is Lucy Moss). A not entirely helpful answer but one that does provide an indication of what’s to follow in the ensuing 75 minutes.
This show tells a version of the performers’ stories, specifically those incidents that bear relation to their identities – such as coming out to their mums, navigating school and finding a gay best friend. It’s a story about their friendship, packaged up in a musical ‘extravaGAYNza’ comedy cabaret.
They – the Hot Gays and Lucy – describe this show as a joke that’s gone too far. It was an idea that escalated into an actual commitment at their university and was produced on a £400 budget in a week.
We know that Marlow and Moss can write fantastically sharp songs. They are, after all, the creators of Six The Musical – the award-winning hit show – and something that the former pleasingly refers to on stage. With Ghati-Torbati added into the mix, the result is even sharper and, on occasion, close-to-the-bone humour. Its a trifecta of witty lyrics, pop music structures and strong vocal performances that delivers immense joy.
The beauty of a production like this is that it allows for performers’ personalities to shine through with a full beam, beyond what is intrinsically woven into the script and score. It’s the moments where they break character as a result of ad libs or improvisation that heighten the laughs. This fluidity works well in the Trafalgar’s bijou Studio 2, a veritable cockpit where no expression goes unseen.
Standout elements include songs such as ‘Couldn’t Get It Up’, Marlow’s pink hot pants and both performers’ flawless make-up looks. – and all of the sass. Marlow’s character is the more cutting of the two, while Ghati-Torbati’s is the sweeter foil.
A former Edinburgh hit, it’s now been transplanted to London’s West End, while firmly maintaining its Fringe feel. It’s a tricky challenge to address; how do you maintain a balance between raw creativity and a polished production? But this team manages to strike the right chord.
In a very fitting end, the show ends with a standing ovation, followed by a dance party and, finally, a sashay away.
Runs until 5th January 2019Reviewed by Bhakti GajjarPhoto credit: Pamela Raith