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Guy: A New Musical review at King’s Head Theatre, London – ‘accomplished score, problematic book’

Scene from Guy: A New Musical at the King's Head Theatre, London. Photo: Simon J Webb
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This new musical by Stephen Hyde and Leoe Mercer created quite a flurry on the fringe this year. It won awards at Birmingham Fest and Buxton before arriving as part of the Bunker’s Breaking Out season of new writing. With its basic staging and a recorded soundtrack, its life has been easily extended  to pop up at the tail end of the King’s Head’s Queer season.

Guy: A New Musical tells the story of a young, shy graphic designer who feels he doesn’t fit in with the body-conscious gay community. Depressed and overweight, he uses his flatmate’s photo to chat confidently to guys on Grindr. Then on a random visit to a gym he meets Aziz who encourages him to think differently.

Unfortunately the book’s depiction of the gay community as unrelentingly infantile and hedonistic is extremely simplistic and the narrative fails to convince as a result. The denouement is saccharine and features a highly improbable deus ex machina.

Hyde’s idiosyncratic techno-pop score is, however, excellent and it’s brought to life by an enthusiastic ensemble led by Brendan Matthew as the immensely likeable Guy.

Haunting ballads are effortlessly fused with original pop anthems to create a genuinely contemporary score that’s rich in detail and intricate in its rhythms. Mercer’s free-flowing direction suits the current staging and is complemented by Yukiko Masui’s playful choreography. But enjoyable as the music is, it’s severely undermined by the problematic nature of the book.

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Accomplished techno-pop score undermined by a problematic book