Summer in London review at Theatre Royal Stratford East, London – ‘unabashedly heartfelt’
Writer and director Rikki Beadle-Blair has put sexuality, gender and diversity at the heart of his work from early in his career. Now, he’s debuting his new play, Summer in London, with an all-trans cast.
In a heatwave-struck London, four homeless lads each go on a date with Summer, newly arrived from the Philippines. Meanwhile, Summer’s mentor, Joan, tries to help sandwich-seller Justine feel comfortable with herself. There’s banter, bluster and heartbreak.
Designer Tom Paris’ huge, George Melies-style inflatable moon, which hangs over the too-green grass of his perspective-distorting set, adds to the Fairytale of London feel of Beadle-Blair’s production. It’s a warm, open-handed comedy about acceptance and self-discovery.
The word trans is never used, but knowledge of the casting adds another layer to the play’s heartfelt exploration of identity, sexuality and the pain of overcoming the past. You can read as much or as little of it into the production as you want. The play stands on its own.
A big part of this show’s appeal is its cast, who sweep you up and carry you along with their charm. From Victoria Gigante’s effervescent, bluntly insightful Summer, to Ash Palmisciano’s bruised cheekiness as Jack, being in their company is a pleasure.
Like life itself, Beadle-Blair’s writing sprawls between cringeworthy and poetically sublime in a beat. The whimsical handling of homelessness is jarring. But this funny, romantic, optimistic play will still bring on the tears. It’s easy to fall in love with Summer in London.
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