Paul Burston reviews Adrian Pagan's only play at the Cock Tavern
‘The Backroom’ was Adrian Pagan’s only play. First produced at the Pleasance in 1998, it later transferred to the Bush where it was showered with praise and won the Verity Bargate award. Ten years on, how well has it held up? Set in a male brothel, the action takes place over several consecutive Saturdays and follows the power-play between the escorts and their ‘madam’ (David Paisley, playing against his gay boy-next-door image). But the truth is that rent boys’ lives aren’t nearly as interesting as some people might think, so the small stage is packed with no less than six escorts (that’s more than the Spice Girls). There’s the posh one, the hunky one, the black one, the straight one, the camp one and the screamingly camp one. There’s also a lot of plot, including an on-stage love affair between two of the boys and an off-stage relationship between the madam and a famous football player.
Some of the plotting isn’t entirely convincing, and there are scenes of male nudity that can seem gratuitous. But the spunky cast certainly give it their best shot and the jokes come thick and fast (sorry). There are some laugh-out-loud moments, mostly involving escort-turned-cleaner Madonna (Will Stokes) and dumb hunk Dallas (Benedict Fogarty). The drama rests mainly on posh boy Charlie, and as good as Daniel Sharman is in the role, the writing lacks the depth to be truly moving. Still if it’s a fun night out you’re after, and you aren’t offended by the sight of fit young men with their clothes off, rest assured that ‘The Backroom’ has plenty of both.
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