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A CurtainUp London London Review
Wig Out!

He looked so beautiful in his grandmother’s wig. Young Boys in wigs can be so beautiful. Old women in wigs save some dignity. Old men in toupées are funny. . .— Rey-Rey
 Wig Out!
Centre: Kevin Harvey as Rey-Rey with the Three Fates (Holly Quin-Ankrah, Kate Gillespie and Jessika Williams)
(Photo: Johan Persson)
Tarell Alvin McCraney's latest play to come to London is a fresh look at the people who make up a part of the drag industry in New York. Directed by Dominic Cooke and set in the Royal Court’s Main House, this is a moving study of the people whose dysfunction may become not just a way of making a living, but a lifestyle and complete environment, as their work colleagues become their family and often their lovers.

Plays about drag seem to be the perfect antidote to the current recession. La Cage Aux Folles is doing good business in the West End with Graham Norton joining the cast as Albin, and in March Priscilla Queen of the Desert will open at the Palace Theatre after the closure of Spamalot. But for my money, Wig Out! is more modern, interesting and realistic take on the courageous vulnerability of the guys who put themselves out there in four inch heels and false eyelashes.

Three beautiful girls, The Fates Three grace the stage with their narration, which is witty and musical. Fay (Holly Quin-Ankrah), Fate (Kate Gillespie) and Faith (Jessika Williams) decorate and punctuate the scenes with funky dance and insightful comment. The Jerwood Theatre has been transformed into an elegant black cat walk runway with a huge disco ball bathing the auditorium with light bubbles. The stage is lit red, the music is exciting and there is an expectant atmosphere. I liked the rhythm of the piece. Besides the refrain of the Fates which my editor likened in New York to a Greek chorus, there is the repetition of the line, the motif "My grandmother wore a wig" as the character recall their family history and relate that wig and the wearing of it to the wig they perhaps wear now in the act.

The group we see most of are the inhabitants of The House of Light, mostly black men but with the three women Fates in support. There is a competition at a ball between the clubs. The House of Light’s opposition is The House of Diabolique led by Billy Carter, as the nasty queen Serena with his sidekick, stick thin Loki but very agile (Drew Caiden), named after the malevolent Norse God.

The characterisations are tender and I felt involved with these guys because they shared so much of themselves with us the audience. Kevin Harvey as Rey-Rey the outgoing "House Mother" is dethroned in favour of another and we feel the competitive sting. Wilson/Nina as played by Nathan Stewart-Jarrett is touching as he tries to keep his job and his boyfriend Eric (Alex Lanipekun) who is unused to having a manfriend dressed as a girl.

Leon Lopez as the DJ, guy dressed as a guy, Deity is handsome and his recollection of his widowed grandfather keeping his dead wife’s wig on a Styrofoam head is one of the most evocative moments of the evening. I liked too Craig Stein’s Venus who is sweet natured and everyone’s best friend. The only note of harshness was from the "House Father" Danny Sapani as Lucian and he tells his wig story with a difference. The costumes and makeup are extravagant, the most elaborate being those for the Evil Diva with her piled black Towers of Hanoi wig on a bald pate covered with mirrors the size of a penny. Wig Out! is a different kind of writing from The Brothers Size trilogy and Tarell Alvin McCraney confirms that he has an exciting new voice and who captures intelligence and rich emotion in his characters. For the review by Elyse Sommer in New York earlier this year, see Wig Out!

Wig Out!
Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney
Directed by Dominic Cooke

With: Holly Quin-Ankrah, Kate Gillespie, Jessika Williams, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Alex Lanipekun, Kevin Harvey, Drew Caiden, Danny Sapani, Craig stein, Leon Lopez, Billy Carter
Design: Ultz
Lighting: Chahine Yavroyan
Sound: Ian Dickinson
Choreographer: Manwe
Music Director: Alec Silverman
Running time: Two hours with one interval
Box Office: 020 7565 5000
Booking to 10th January 2008
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 8th December 2008 performance at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, Royal Court, Sloane Square, London SW1 (Tube: Sloane Square)
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