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Velvet review at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh – ‘engaging and important’

Tom Ratcliffe in Velvet at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Tom’s a young actor desperate to stick with his dream career despite regularly working for less than minimum wage and having to move back in with his parents after splitting up with his wealthier boyfriend.

Velvet, written and performed by Tom Ratcliffe, is the brutally familiar story of a passionate actor exploited and abused by a more powerful and senior industry figure. In Tom’s case, he’s tricked into making a solo sex tape later leaked on the internet.

But despite our recent familiarity with these types of stories, Velvet offers a personal perspective that feels raw and human.

Directed by Andrew Twyman, the staging combines a first-person monologue with re-enacted scenes at post-show parties and meetings with agents, and extracts from WhatsApp chats between Tom and the stateside man who betrays him.

The crackle of the piece comes from Ratcliffe’s snappy and charismatic delivery. The fact he’s so inherently likeable makes the deception feel all the worse.

Ratcliffe’s script is sharply observational in parts. Along with the #MeToo narrative, it captures the inherent impossibilities and unfairness of the acting industry more widely: the everyday cruelties of bitchy agents and insecure work. For that alone, it’s worth watching.

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Engaging and important first-person account of sexual exploitation in the acting industry