Review: The Heartbreaks You Embrace

ANNA SHEINMAN enjoyed watching the ‘horrified faces of all the other audience members’.

Cabaret Michaelhouse Cafe Stuart Flynn

Friday 11th – Saturday 12th, 8.00, Michaelhouse Cafe. £5.

What a beautiful evening, what a wonderful venue, what a SHIT play. I thought I was going to spend much of the review being very rude about the exceptionally impolite, self important, self righteous, power tripping organisers. As it is, there is so much else I hated about the show, I simply haven’t the time.

Before it had even started, I had written in my notebook “pretentious, inexplicable, incomprehensible”, and that was just about the A4 piece of paper we had been given with quotes from textbooks on homosexuality, some kind of Eastern Religious text (God forbid they should explain what or why) and other things I was too irritated to read. I could have put my pen down there, because those comments sum up most of the show.

Normally I would tell you what the play was about. Sadly, for most of the show, my friend and I had no idea what it was about. It was a one man show, performed by Stuart Flynn, who was rather painful to look at: high heels, shirt and tie, feather boa, leather jacket, half bald, but with long bright orange hair sort of stuck to his head all featured in there somewhere. Apparently in real life he’s a successful cabaret singer. More on that later. He was sitting in a cafe talking about seemingly unconnected things with some of the most unconvincing dramatic pauses I have ever known. (Note to director: Rubbing your face with your hands does not equal emotional intensity.) For much of the hour and a half I thought the whole show was about an asphixiwank. After much post-play consultation, we unravelled that basically the man in front of us was a cabaret singer and English teacher (an obvious combination), who fell in love with one of his (male) students. The object of his affections was an Iranian asylum seeker, whose claim failed and was sent back to Iran to be hung for his homosexual misdemeanours. I think.

The play started with aforementioned weird looking guy reading from a scrappy piece of paper the medical effects of being hung. I don’t know if he was reading it because it was some kind of dramatic construct I didn’t get, or the actor just couldn’t learn his lines. Not a great start. It only went downhill from there. He told a joke, I couldn’t tell you what about, then chuckled to himself and said “hilarious”. It really wasn’t. He should have known this because nobody laughed. Except someone I assume was the director, who laughed loudly at everything. We could not hear much of what was said. This was actually a small mercy, because what I did pick up was clichéd, pretentious, ‘oh wow look how groundbreaking I am’ twaddle. It all made so much more sense when I found out the writer went to my school.

The best bit of the play was when a drunk homeless man wandered into the church on crutches, very, very loudly, and one of the foppish organisers jumped up: “have you come to see the show?” No of course he bloody didn’t, he’s looking for a drink.

St Michael’s Church Cafe is modern, airy, stylish venue for an intimate performance to around twenty audience members. Great acoustics. Gorgeous design. I thought that was going to be the only good thing I had to say. And then ten minutes before the end, Stuart Flynn/gay, English as a foreign language teacher from Brighton, sat down at the keyboard, and began to sing, in response to everything that had happened. What a phenomenal voice. Powerful, nuanced, and extremely controlled, his voice filled the vaulted room and sent shivers down my spine. Shame the rest of it sucked. The only real joy of this play was that because the lights didn’t go down, I got to watch the horrified faces of all the other audience members. It made for excellent viewing.