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Wednesday, 24 July 2019

REVIEW: The View UpStairs at The Soho Theatre

The View UpStairs by Max Vernon has just opened at The Soho Theatre on Dean Street. From the moment that casting was announced, I was desperate to see it, despite not having a clue what it was about or even what it was.

The show is an ‘interpretive account of a true event of a notoriously unsolved arson fire that took place at a gay bar called the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans on June 24th 1973.’ The first thing that should be said is the poignancy of this piece of theatre. Recently, there has been a massive increase in the production of ‘gay plays’ but the writing, from Max Vernon, in this particular piece, cleverly puts a spotlight on the lives of LGBTQ+ people in 1973 and 2019 , literally next to each other on stage. It also poses a serious, yet frightening question; is life as a minority these days that much better than it was back then? Yes, things have changed and evolved, but there is still such a safety concern for our community and lives being lost every day due to social media bullying and hate crime attacks amongst many other scary realities. 

Whilst the show has dark subject matter, it’s not depressing from beginning to end. In fact, it takes you on a bit of an emotional journey. A journey with lots of laughter. The majority of the laughter and joy comes from Henri, played by Carly Mercedes Dyer. A character with big hair, a big voice and a big attitude. Dyer nails both her comic timing and vocals throughout and leaves you wanting to know more about her story - her character being one of the least explored in this production. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

FIRST LOOK: The View Upstairs at the Soho Theatre

The musical opens in present day when Wes (Tyrone Huntley), a young fashion designer buys and abandoned space, not realising this had been the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant '70s gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans, which in 1973, was burned down in an arson attack, killing 32 people. THE VIEW UPSTAIRS brings to life this forgotten community and takes the audience on an exhilarating journey of seduction and self-exploration, celebrating the lives of those forgotten while featuring a soulful, rock and jazz score. The musical also stars Andy Mientus, Declan Bennett, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, Cedric Neal and John Partridge as Patrick, Dale, Inez, Willie and Buddy respectively. Completing the cast are Carly Mercedes Dyer as Henri, Gary Lee as Freddy, Joseph Prouse as Richard and Derek Hagen as Cops/Realtor. THE VIEW UPSTAIRS is written by Max Vernon and directed in London by Jonathan O'Boyle. 

THE VIEW UPSTAIRS is produced in London by Jack Maple & Brian Zeilinger for Take Two Theatricals and Ken Fakler, with Creative House Productions and Associate Producers Kittie Fahey, Benjamin Lockwood, Sue Marks and Club 11 London.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

NEW INTERVIEW: Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, currently in rehearsals for The View UpStairs at the Soho Theatre

Victoria Hamilton-Barritt is one of our top leading ladies, she is currently in rehearsals for the European premier of The View Upstairs at the Soho Theatre. Her other credits include The Wild Party (The Other Palace), Murder Ballad (The Arts Theatre), In the Heights (Southwark Playhouse & Kings Cross Theatre), A Chorus Line (London Palladium), Gypsy (Leicester Curve), Flashdance (UK Tour & Shaftesbury Theatre), Grease (Piccadilly Theatre) and Saturday Night Fever (UK Tour). We Caught up with her whilst she was in rehearsals. 

You’ll be appearing in the European premier of the off-Broadway hit musical, The View UpStairs. Tell us a bit about the show. 

We're telling the story of an arson attack against the LGBT+ community in 1973 New Orleans, which killed too many people for a dinky upstairs bar in the French Quarter. Without giving away any spoilers, the show is revisiting that very evening but not in the obvious way you'd imagine. The show fluctuates between 2019 and 1973. Almost a hallucination? I don't want to spoil anything, but we're telling the stories of perhaps what could have possibly happened that night. The goings on within their community life in this supposedly safe haven, where people can be themselves, are not judged for who they are and can enjoy the company of similar-like souls in their friends.

And you’ll be playing the role of Inez, can you tell us a bit about her? 

Inez is a loyal mother who would never turn her back on her son. Freddy (Inez's son played by the wonderful Garry Lee) was discovered wearing his mother’s makeup and clothes at a young age by his father. The father left them both to fend for themselves, in a country that wasn't their own. Because of this neglect and disappointment from the father they started a life together, just the two of them. Their bond is so strong, and she is so proud of her son. She puts makeup on his face and helps put his costumes together for his drag performances, living her dream of show business through him and her new found family at the bar.
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