ABOUT A GOTH
Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, Thursday 27th July, 2017
Gritty Theatre bring their production of Tom Wells’s 2009 piece to Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre en route to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. A one-hander performed by newcomer Clement Charles, this is the story of Nick, a 17-year-old Goth, who is gay and who volunteers at a local old people’s home. Dressed like a kind of vampire undertaker, a cross between Marilyn Manson and Noel Fielding, Nick is instantly appealing – it’s his camp bitchiness (or bitchy campness) that gets us laughing along with him from the off. His performance is a one-hander in a different sense when he confides that he has to abandon a masturbation session because of his fear of staining his black duvet cover. Nick narrates key scenes from his life, including his visits to old man Rod at the home. He (Nick) is bright and witty, scathing and sensitive – exactly the kind of character I would have found alluring when I was that age, all those centuries ago.
Director Ian Moule doesn’t let Nick keep still for a minute, eliciting an energetic and engaging performance from the likeable and talented Charles. During his anecdotes, Nick gradually strips away his gothic accoutrements, sloughing them off one at a time – and it’s all in keeping with the action: his socks become galloping hooves in one of his mum and dad’s historical reenactments, for example – the piecemeal degothification adds to Charles’s electrifying portrayal, as Nick eventually goes the full monty – in the best possible taste! No detail is overlooked, from the black toenail polish to the seemingly throwaway characterisations of the others who populate Nick’s life. Wells’s witty script is given insightful treatment – a balloon is put to symbolic use and the baring of Nick’s body, along with his story and his soul, elevates this coming-out story to something more universal: it’s about becoming aware of one’s own identity, of discovering who you are beneath the labels we and others place on ourselves. At the end, Nick stands before us, without a stitch or a smear of makeup. He doesn’t need to say, “Here I am”.
Clement Charles is thoroughly captivating, his delivery immaculate and exceedingly funny. He’s also a great little mover if his cavorting to the Sugababes and Britney is anything to go by. It’s an assured performance that rings true.
This is a satisfying and entertaining hour or so, that stirs memories of one’s own troubled teenage years (is there another kind?) reminding us that Goths, teenagers and even the elderly are humans too.