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Published Friday 14 September 2012 at 10:27 by Paul Vale

Taboo tells the fictional story of wannabe photographer Billy and his voyage of self-discovery in London during the early 1980s.

Matthew Rowland (Boy George) in Taboo at Brixton Club House, London

Matthew Rowland (Boy George) in Taboo at Brixton Club House, London Photo: Roy Tan

Boy George’s charismatic score, perhaps wisely featuring only two of his chart hits, is a reminder of just how good musical biopics can be. It helps that Mark Davies Markham’s book is both witty and engaging, telling a very human story behind the hedonistic glare of the burgeoning New Romantic movement.

The Brixton Club House is a fascinating venue in which to tell this story and the adaptation of the dancefloor and bar into the theatre is all-encompassing, creating a genuinely interactive production with characters dancing on your tables and Paul Baker’s irrepressible Philip Sallon offering canapes to the assembled crowd. Baker won an Olivier for the original production and he returns to the role here with gusto, as a narrator and emcee of sorts, doling out the thinly-veiled insults to an appreciative crowd.

The rest of the cast is mix of established performers such as Michael Matus as the psychotic transvestite Petal and Sarah Ingram, simply marvellous as Billy’s put-upon mother Josie and newcomers Matthew Rowland as Boy George, Adam Bailey as a petulant, preening Marilyn and The Voice finalist Sam Buttery making his professional debut as lascivious performance artist, Leigh Bowery. Alistair Brammer brings an underlying sensitivity to the role of Billy and he is complemented by a splendid Niamh Perry as Kim. Katie Kerr as Big Sue brings her soaring, soulful vocals to this particularly strong company with Act II’s Il Adore being one of the evening’s many highlights.

Christopher Renshaw’s direction has lost none of its energy or spark and the changes to the staging embrace the new venue thoroughly, however Christine Bateman’s make-up and wigs and Mike Nicholls’ costumes show definite signs of compromise, a move that is almost unforgivable in a show where the look is everything.

Production information

Brixton Club House, London, September 13-December 23

Boy George (music and lyrics), Mark Davies Markham (book)
Christopher Renshaw
Danielle Tarento, Bronia Buchanan, End of the Pier Productions
Paul Baker, Alistair Brammer, Sarah Ingram, Matthew Rowland, Niamh Perry, Michael Matus, Katie Kerr, Sam Buttery
Running time:
2hrs 30mins

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