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Bingo review at Pleasance Theatre, London – ‘witty, rapid-fire monologue’

Alan Flanagan in Bingo at Pleasance Theatre, London. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli Alan Flanagan in Bingo at Pleasance Theatre, London. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli

Cormac’s got the full house: HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, herpes, gonorrhoea. Bingo. And he’s not dealing with it very well.

Alan Flanagan’s likeable one-man play follows Cormac, an Irishman in London, through his diagnosis, his drug-fuelled denial, his desperation, his gradual rehabilitation and a whole lot more besides. It’s a rapid-fire whirlwind of pill-popping, gay orgies and booze-soaked reminiscing.

Some bits are really funny. Like when Cormac recollects his first teenage sexual encounter with another man, remembering that at that age he “would have got turned on by 9/11”. Or when he feverishly recounts his latest Netflix obsession, a comically complicated mystery starring Amy Adams.

Some bits are more serious, though, more hard-hitting. The ghost of a childhood trauma hovers naggingly at the edge of the monologue. Cormac’s post-diagnosis existentialism tugs away at the corner of his chatter.

At times, Flanagan tries a bit too hard, cramming too many off-the-cuff gags into one sentence, too much verbose wit into one passage, stretching the chirpy, confessional vibe he’s aiming at and cheapening the more grittier bits as a result.

In general, though, Dan Hutton’s laid-back direction and Flanagan’s own performance as Cormac keep things in check. Flanagan is a winning raconteur, sliding around the bare stage in a spinning office chair, occasionally reclining in vacant seats as he flits from strand to narrative strand with a bubbly bravado.

It’s difficult not to smile when this odyssey of one man’s journey into the darkness and out again comes to its defiant, rocket-fuelled conclusion.

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Verdict
A witty, rapid-fire monologue about one man’s struggle with HIV that occasionally tries too hard
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