Romance Romance at Above The Stag: A masquerade ball of deceit and decadence

Romance Romance at Above the Stag

ADAPTED: Above The Stag’s production is reimagined with LGBT characters (Pic: PBGSTUDIOS)

At its heart, the show tackles the intersection of deceit and duplicity in the context of illicit relationships, but manages to do so with an air of lightheartedness and good humour.

The musical is composed of two acts spanning different time periods and locations.

The first, The Little Comedy, is set in Vienna in the late 19th century and satirises notions of class and courtship.

The production employs the motif of masks, not only to convey the wealth and decadence of lovers Alfred (Blair Robertson) and Valentin (Jordan Lee Davis), but to remind us of their constant deception.

This is not a traditional tale of courtly romance, not least thanks to Above The Stag’s LGBT twist on the original script.

The notion of having to wear a mask or project a different persona will no doubt resonate with many members of the queer community who have grappled with their identity, but when it comes to the show’s portrayal of forbidden love, it is class alone that presents hurdles.

The pair meet in disguises after getting sick of the airs and graces of their upper class backgrounds, each pretending to be working class and of humble means to find true love.

Of course, the dramatic irony of the bachelors duping each other and fearing rejection on the grounds of their unknowingly mutual privilege ensures comedy aplenty and is brought to life with considerable vigour by the four-man cast.

Romance Romance at Above the Stag

DISGUISE: Two rich singletons pretend to be working class to find love (Pic: PBGSTUDIOS)

Romance Romance at Above the Stag

DUPED: Both lovers lie and are lied to in turn (Pic: PBGSTUDIOS)

The choreography, which often sees the protagonists switching places with their valets and servants, serves as a metaphor for the lovers’ efforts to embody someone else altogether and infuses the plot with a sense of meta-theatricality, as the players take on the roles they felt would best serve their ends.

What’s more its execution is slick and polished, with lifts, complex footwork and even set changes effortlessly woven together in a way befitting the period.

Sound and lighting are both well balanced, while costume correlates seamlessly with the characters’ transformations from high society socialites to working men.

As for performances, the first half sees Davis and Robertson shine, with chemistry aplenty, powerful vocals and superb comic timing.

Romance Romance at Above the Stag

CHEMISTRY: Luca and Lars are drawn to each other (Pic: PBGSTUDIOS)

The second half, Summer Share, is altogether different, but no less successful.

Set in a modern day beachside property in The Hamptons, it tracks the mounting sexual tensions between Luca (Ryan Anderson) and Lars (Alex Lodge).

Both are on holiday together with their spouses and find themselves on the precipice of an act of infidelity capable of changing their lives forever.

The venue’s modest size amplifies the sense of claustrophobia as their attraction swells, with Anderson and Lodge’s nuanced physicality escalating from playful flirting to thwarted passion.

The set is decidedly more cluttered, with children’s toys and clothes serving as a reminder of the marries couples’ responsibilities outside the bubble of their summer break.

Romance Romance at Above the Stag

BOILING POINT: The pair are forced to confront their attraction (Pic: PBGSTUDIOS)

Meanwhile, the looming presence of the prospective lovers’ partners, who watch their tender moments in dismay, provides a poignant counterpoint to the humour of the dialogue.

Once again, the vocals are superb and the direction well paced.

Anderson and Lodge bring an air of bittersweetness to proceedings as they reminisce about their teenage years spent together and ponder why they never pursed a romantic relationship with one another.

The adaptation of the script to feature two gay couples is carried out with panache and integrity – a credit to director Steven Dexter.

If you’re a fan of classical musical theatre but occasionally find it to be antiquated or cliché, this reimagining is certain to tickle your fancy.

Romance Romance runs from March 12 in Above The Stag’s main theatre.


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