“Set in a dark sex dungeon, crime-busting superhero, the Stallion, and his intrepid sidekick, Butterfly, have been lured to the secret lair of their arch-nemesis: the dastardly Villainor…!”
This all sounds very exciting and Hollywood-style cinematic, but in reality, this is not a play about superheroes at all, it is instead an incredibly camp, modern, and queer take on the traditional British farce, conceived and written by Ian Hallard.
The play features two main characters Tim (David Ames) and Tom (Jake Maskall), a married couple of 10 years, seeking to spice up their sex life with a bit of superhero, spandex cosplay. It features a very handsome male sex worker and a room full of sex toys. Sounds like the perfect night out for our adventure seeking couple, however, when an unfortunate, but ever so predictable mishap leaves them trapped in the dungeon with an unconscious “Villainor” (Matt Lapinskas), the scene is set for an evening of awkward homo-innuendo and slapstick humour.
As expected, ‘Horse-Play’ relies heavily on crude, and sometimes rude jokes to get the audience giggling, and as is the case with most theatrical farce pieces, at some points the script is ridiculously funny, whilst others rely heavily on naughty one-liners to shock into laughter. Hallan commented that he actually wanted to write a piece about sex which doesn’t feature any sex, and as certainly achieved this, as he has created a somewhat asexual, strictly vanilla piece that is completely harmless, and quite a lot of fun.
The cast are all very strong, each delivering their own style to the unique piece. David Ames holds up well as judgemental and flamboyant Tim. He is able to commit well to Tim’s dry and cutting one liner throughout and delivers a very energetic presence to the team. In contrast, Jake Maskall’s character Tom, is gentler in nature, more caring and quieter. Maskall delivers on this well, offering up a more thoughtful characterisation to offset the louder Tim. To support the pair, Lapinskas plays Karl brilliantly, bringing not only his beautiful physique, but also his acting talent to a mysterious character struggling to find himself amongst the chaos.
The incredible set, bold and bright costumes and beautiful lighting design by David Shields are all highly sophisticated, with absolutely no detail left out. Clearly a lot of research has gone into making this a realistic and genuinely believable dungeon environment for the script to play out, a truly delightful, and incredibly sensory experience from the moment the audience enter the auditorium. On a production level ‘Horse-Play’ means business!
In all ‘Horse-Play’ is a light-hearted, playful production that really doesn’t take itself or its content too seriously. It is a farce in every way possible, with overly stereotyped characters delivering improbable jokes and unrealistic comedy antics, tied up with the occasional physical horseplay, to get the audience laughing. Overall, it delivers well, and is recommended as a fun, high energy, no stress production to go and see, although probably not recommended for those light on a more open and queer friendly sense of humour.
‘Horse-Play’ is at the Riverside Studios until 24th September 2022. Tickets are available here: https://riversidestudios.co.uk/see-and-do/horse-play-33461
Reviewer: Alan Stuart Malin
Reviewed: 12th September 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★