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Rent Party review at Crucible Studio, Sheffield – ‘fierce and fabulous’

Lenai Russell in Rent Party at Crucible Studio. Photo: Sam Taylor Lenai Russell in Rent Party at Crucible Studio. Photo: Sam Taylor

Welcome to a party where vogueing is all the rage, there are shots aplenty, and you’ve got £80 worth of party vouchers (that’s 55p more than a week’s Universal Credit) to shower on this evening’s entertainers – hopefully they’ll make enough to cover this month’s rent.

Inspired by the rent parties of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, musical gatherings held in people’s flats in order to help pay their rent, writer Cheryl Martin and Darren Pritchard’s Rent Party is an exploration – and celebration – of what it is to be young, queer and black in times of austerity.

The five performers share harrowing and humorous stories from their lives, ranging from Kamille Gordon’s dream of playing Dolores in Sister Act to AJ LeRoy’s overpowering fear of drowning. Each story is a little window into the worries and struggles that can be covered up by good brow game and a fierce stiff upper lip; Jason Guest’s chilling account of escaping an abusive relationship stills the room.

Pritchard’s production, with its minimalist design, is enlivened by an eclectic mix of vogueing, Charleston and street dance. Stuart Bowden makes a fabulous host and Lenai Russell performs a politically influenced limbo dance.

Rent Party is an exhilarating exploration of the intersections of race, class, sexuality and gender while also putting the best New Year’s Eve parties to shame; it’s as poignant as it is political, as fierce as it is fabulous.

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Fierce queens and powerful storytelling make for a superb alternative Christmas show