The ageless, enigmatic Torsten first appeared at Above the Stag in 2016 as part of the dramatic song-cycle Torsten: The Beautiful Libertine, a musical curiosity featuring Erasure frontman Andy Bell in the title role.
Author Barney Ashton-Bullock and composer Christopher Frost have collaborated with Bell once more to create Queereteria TV, in an attempt to develop the Torsten mythology.
In a post-apocalypse near-future, Torsten is now the prisoner of a state-sanctioned entertainment channel, hosted by the psychotically self-absorbed drag queen Lady Domina Bizarre.
Ashton-Bullock’s book for this sequel benefits from a much more cohesive narrative. The characters are better developed and his rhythmic prose, with its flashes of Polari and its strident take on ideas of gender and the fetishism of mass culture, is given more room.
Despite being on book throughout, Peter Straker makes an eloquent Rupert, eulogising the hedonism of his youth in an attempt to understand the present. Matthew Baldwin, as the vicious Lady Domina, creates a character of such hideous self-importance, it’s testament to the restraint of the actor that he doesn’t unbalance the piece.
Queereteria TV is a truly bizarre concoction, a quality enhanced by David Shields’ dystopia-chic set design and Michael Brenkley’s frenetic lighting.
As Torsten, Bell’s acting range may be limited, but his voice, so emblematic of the 1980s electro-pop scene, amplifies the elements of queer history that permeate Robert McWhir’s production.