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Boy Toy review at Above the Stag, London – ‘a queer re-imagining of Coppélia’

The cast of Boy Toy at Above the Stag, London. Photo: PBG Studios
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It’s been just over a year since LGBT+ theatre Above the Stag moved into its latest Vauxhall home. Ambitious shows such as Boy Toy suggest confidence is riding high.

A self-described “homoerotic jazz ballet”, it’s the venue’s first dance production. While it’s true that a cramped railway arch isn’t a natural setting for the piece – some of the dancers do look like they’re reining it in slightly, due to lack of space – it’s still to be applauded as a statement of intent.

William Spencer’s re-imagining of the near-150 year-old ballet Coppélia – the tale of man falling in love with a puppet operated by a nefarious doctor – is set in the modern gay world, or at least the tequila-slamming-nightclub and seedy sex-shop side of it.

The hour-long show is heavy on the sort of over-the-top physical comedy that even your gran would find hard to resist, providing she has a tolerance for mock sword-fights with huge dildos.

A chirpy cast of four – Matthew Brazier, Lance Collins, Saul Kilcullen-Jarvis and Callum Tempest – twirl and leap to Aaron Clingham’s easy-listening version of the original score, and make the first three-quarters of the evening irresistibly joyful.

Towards the final hurdle, however, it loses its way when the choreography runs out of tricks and an unconvincing ending is rushed off.

Still, you’d have to be held up by strings to have not found yourself chuckling throughout this camp and cheery retelling of a ballet classic.

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A queer remake of Coppélia that's more a comedy than a dance piece