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Dandy in the Underworld

Published Wednesday 16 June 2010 at 11:30 by Aleks Sierz

If life is just theatre, then Sebastian Horsley is a one-man costume drama. Having survived a childhood marked by his parents’ alcoholism and a dysfunctional family existence, he then spent his money on prostitutes, class A drugs and clothes - not necessarily in that order.

Milo Twomey (Sebastian Horsley) in Dandy in the Underworld at Soho Theatre

Milo Twomey (Sebastian Horsley) in Dandy in the Underworld at Soho Theatre Photo: Geraint Lewis

As a painter and dandy, he is one of Soho’s most colourful characters and his cult autobiography has been artfully dramatised by playwright Tim Fountain.

In this solo show, true dandyism, Horsley informs us, is a form of rebellion, not a profession but a condition. As he slowly changes from dressing gown to scarlet Regency garb, he grows in front of our eyes.

While it is clear that his plan to seduce Henrietta, a rep of his Austrian publishers, is doomed, Horsley’s quick gallop through his life and times gives a vivid picture of a man who has turned insincerity into an art form.

With his compulsive addiction to heroin and casual sex, Horsley uses vanity to hide his insecurities, which lie quite near the surface anyway. Like a modern Oscar Wilde, or a punk Quentin Crisp, he specialises in bon mots, a typical example being “too many cocks spoil the brothel”. Such larks pepper an evening that, with its stories of failed crucifixion and suicide, is always luridly entertaining.

On Paul Wills’ set, which is a loving reproduction of Horsley’s Soho flat, complete with human skulls, postcards, posters and peepholes, Fountain’s production has charm and laughter aplenty.

Milo Twomey is boyish, cheery, and occasionally campy. Always engaging, never dull, he solicits and responds to audience reactions. Whatever Horsley is like in real life, on stage his incarnation rocks.

Production information

Soho Theatre, June 9-July 10

Tim Fountain
Tim Fountain
Soho Theatre
Milo Twomey
Running time:
1hr 10mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014