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[Performance Analysis:] FRANK’S CLOSET, Union Theatre, London.

I had very mixed responses to this performance — as did quite a few, rather vocal audience members. Frank’s Closet is an enjoyable evening, full of vitality, camp extravagance, wit and character, but its focus and agenda are entirely confused, its plot poorly communicated, and its action seeming incongruous with its primary narrative. Ultimately, it loses touch with its initial premise, attempting to marry all of its various, disparate activities with Frank’s (Andy Moss) “journey in life” but to no success and with great incoherency. 

Our four chorus members (Jack Rose, Oliver Bradley-Taylor, Sarah Freer, and Olivia McBride) are most impressive in their expressivity, vocals, and command of the stage. All four of them maintain excellent physicality and vitality throughout, with their various impressions and quips being most transformative and enjoyable. Choreography itself is sufficiently varied and impressive, though I would pay greater attention to interstitial activity — most notably during vamps or short interludes whilst Frank is explaining something to the audience — as these are much too repetitive, incorporating simple knee-lifting foot taps and clicks of the fingers whilst turning on the spot.

Luke Farrugia is simply awe-inspiring as the various Divas, demonstrating great skill, talent and self-awareness. For the vast majority of the performance, his vocals are impeccable, manifesting an excellent range and control. The majority of characterisations are also allowed to flourish through his inflections and exaggerative positionings of the mouth in song as well as through an excellent corporeal and facial expressivity throughout. Farrugia has excellent presence and vitality, and immaculate costuming certainly aids our appreciation of his exaggerative personae. It is easy to feel that his personae are slightly too superficial, however, but this is due to the writing (Stuart Wood) and the hurried nature of the Divas' presentations, performing their unique numbers in a one-time appearance before swiftly being replaced by the next.

In comparison, however, other costumes remain distinctly unrefined, with the skirts attached to the corsets of some of the chorus dancers slowly detaching as the performance progresses. There are certainly other elements that produce a sense of tackiness, as with the lack of a backdrop to conceal the entrances and exits of characters once they have come through the designated portal to the stage. Otherwise, this is truly a most aesthetically pleasing performance.

Whilst Farrugia’s impersonations of celebrities are generally skilful, their relevance is poorly conceived. Of course, they are the divas of the past whose spirits and peculiarities have greatly influenced Frank and whose costumes he has collected as a sycophantic magpie of sorts, but the performance quickly becomes an endless series of impersonations as opposed to a symbolic representation of how they have impacted Frank’s psyche, despite the few Diva—Frank interactions that we are presented. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ Community, I can certainly identify and comprehend an obsession with sassy, powerful, egotistical and successful [routinely female] figures and how an abrupt, condescending and ‘shady’ diva culture can increase a member of this Community’s self-esteem, joie de vivre and sense of purpose. However, it is never communicated that this is, indeed, the reason behind the sudden changes of tone, the swearing, the bitchiness; this is merely a deduction of mine.

For instance, seeing Julie Andrews as quintessentially British, trilling, tight-lipped and upright, then swearing with the children and sticking her middle finger up is most comedic in its absurdity, but what is the purpose of presenting Julie Andrews in this way? How does this depiction / imagined extension of this Diva persona benefit, empower, challenge or change Frank? This remains distinctly unclear for our lack of information, causing the primary narrative to feel disparate in comparison. Merely having the Diva tell Frank to shut up whilst she sings another number, or having the two exchange mere one-liners wherein Frank explains his current situation and the Diva tells him to have courage, is not sufficient to justify the Divas’ presence. This disjointedness, and the sudden revelation at the end that Frank’s boyfriend would never ask him to change himself to be with him — a revelation that destroys the entire premise of the play and that complicates it further with his own infatuation with yet another Diva — are the main subtractions from the integrity of this text. Indeed, this ending feels like an afterthought, a snappy way to end the musical on a soppy high-note but without much integrity or profundity.

In summary, whilst the performers and backstage creatives demonstrate, overall, excellent skill, conviction and chemistry, the foundations of the performance, the text and the book, need significant work to render this performance coherent and efficacious.

“A performance with catchy songs and pleasing visuals but with little coherency or depth.”


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