Bromance Is Not Dead! Bromantics @ Theatre Royal Stratford East

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I had a pleasure of shadowing Rikki Beadle-Blair when he rehearsed his newest masterpiece. Last Friday I got to see the rehearsed reading, and I want to say a little more about it!

Bromantics follows the stories and interactions of a group of people associated with skateboarding. First we meet Nicky, Sean and Gabriella; Nicky (Kyle Fraser) and Sean (Regé-Jean Page) are best friends who are managing a skateboard shop together, and trying to deal with Nicky’s break-up with Gabriella (Samantha Hull). Sean is both the designated break-up handler (as Nicky cannot deal with saying as much to his now ex) and Gabriella’s post-break-up helper who makes her feel good about herself (see Brian Safi’s definition of “Gayngel”). You don’t need to be psychic to see it will backfire, and that’s even before Rafael (Rikki Beadle-Blair) walks into the skateboard shop, promoting his newest inclusive disco “Gay, gay, gay”… .

Obviously, all roads lead to the party. While Nicky goes to goad Sean into giving Rafael a chance (Sean’s problem with anything approaching “fabulous” nonwithstanding), Gabriella takes a different route. Working in a cafe, she spots a boy who looks like he’s going through a break-up; only one of these assumptions is correct. After initial awkwardness, Gabriella and Raven (Yrsa Daley-Ward) bond/flirt about “being a bit of a boy”, and get surprised by Lady Catford (Laura Crowhurst), Raven’s ex, who then delivers the immortal line: “I’m just the ex! We haven’t had sex in weeks, we barely even text” (also memorable for shaking Gabriella by the shoulders, exclaiming “you’re so pretty!”, as one should do when meeting ex’s newest girlfriend…).

Not cracking up yet? Now, ladies gentlemen and whoever else reads my blog, this is a MUSICAL with no dialogue (= opera? pop opera!). All the above is explained by singing and dancing, with melodies which are in turn energetic and poignant. Actors don’t just dance: they do aerobics, hang from the ceiling and skateboard cautiously in the small space of the studio… and this is when I remind you that this was a rehearsed reading! Yes, you may well have the chance of seeing the finished version with full scenography. I for one really want to know what happens in the disco: this is not a reviewing cliffhanger, trying to avoid spoilers, it is simply as far as I’ve seen – roughly an hour of play, so half of a musical.

The visionary behind this is Rikki Beadle-Blair, who not only directed the piece, but also wrote the music and lyrics (if you’re looking to get involved in arts, his company, Team Angelica, is a good place to go – I linked the webpage before, so here is their Facebook group). He assembled a fantastic group of actors – all of them have beautiful voices and they work very well together. Samantha Hull portrays “the smart girl” – articulate, assertive with just a bit of insecurity and a taste for “losers”. Kyle Fraser is your laidback straight boy, uncharacteristically sad about a break up and scared of commitment. Regé-Jean Page conveys the “dashing gay best friend” a bit too well, struggling with his sexual expression… Yrsa Daley-Ward’s character is an androgynous woman, who deals beautifully with gender assumptions and is not above pursuing the advantage her looks give her. Laura Crowhurst’s neurotic ex is full of good intentions and comedic turns, and highly relatable as a result. Rikki Beadle-Blair’s Rafael (Raphael?), a Colombian man who scores high on fabulousness scale, gives us comedy and plays with cliches without becoming a cliche. Altogether, they form a great ensemble who offer their audience a night to remember; I hope to be going to Theatre Royal Stratford East sooner rather than later, so that I can see the rest of it!

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