'Taboo' review or 'A freakin awesome fashion show!'

‘Taboo’ (The Boy George Musical), Music and Lyrics by Boy George
Brixton Clubhouse, Friday 14th September
Written for Time Out 

Autobiographical musicals are often bland jukebox numbers; soulless cash cows written to rinse hardcore fans of their hard-earned cash. Yet this revival of Boy George's 2002 effort, 'Taboo', has characters as colourful as a Gay Pride rainbow, glorious original songs and costumes that make Lady Gaga look prudish.

Christopher Renshaw's wonderfully shameless production is staged in the Brixton Clubhouse, a suitably sweaty, site-specific location for a musical set in the titular nightclub at the height of the '80s new romantic scene. The stage is a glorified catwalk that winds through the audience, the performers' garish makeup practically dripping into our laps.

The one bland ingredient is Mark Davies Markham's book, which is straightforward and slight. It's the classic story of boy (Alistair Brammer's Billy) meets girl (Niamh Perry's Kim). And then meets Boy (George - played by Matthew Rowland). With various key new romantic players drifting through, the gang flirt, sing and shoot up together. Rowland, as the seemingly soft-hearted but steely Boy George, stops things getting too schmaltzy.

But this is essentially a bonkers fashion show and it's the colour, costumes (give designer Mike Nicholls an award) and chorus that stand out. Boy George's original songs are gutsy and soulful, particularly the edgy ensemble numbers such as 'Petrified' and 'Touched by the Hand of Cool'.

Sam Buttery is unforgettable as performance artist Leigh Bowery. His costumes are outstanding: he is alternately covered in silver, caked in green and decked in an outfit that can only be described as a huge, shredded lime. Best of all is Buttery's appearance in his birthday suit; a brave moment that reminds us of the vulnerability beneath the sparkle and sequins.


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