Billed as a “giddy and gloriously foul-mouthed comedy”, the storyline on ‘Tommy On Top’ is one of jeopardy and hilarious lies. Our lead character, Tommy is a closeted Hollywood heartthrob struggling to keep a lid on his love life and he is willing to go to the greatest lengths to achieve his goal, to win the award for his latest movie. After all, no “out” gay man has ever won Best Actor at the Oscars.
Fortunately, Tommy isn’t an out gay man, he is very much in the closet. Unfortunately, gossip hack Kiki (Becky Sanneh) suspects he’s got a lot more in his closet than just a freshly pressed white tuxedo…
The development of a perfect theatrical farce takes careful planning and structure is everything. It is vital that things happen with exact precision so as never to get lost on the audience, there should be an element of growth within the plotline, allowing the feverish craziness to build up over time, with layers and layers of lies adding to the plot and a crescendo moment that leaves the audience in stitches.
I have to say, ‘Tommy On Top’ really doesn’t disappoint and delivers a text book example of a modern farce. Set in a swanky Los Angeles hotel room (simply designed by David Shields with lighting by Joseph Ed Thomas and sound by Paul Gavin), on the eve of the Oscars event, ‘Tommy On Top’ has absolutely everything you would expect as we see Tommy and a small cast of characters embark on a series of contradictions, secrets and lies to ensure that Tommy makes it up the red carpet with his hetero heartthrob status intact. There is the obligatory slamming of doors, surprising entrances and exits, characters in their underwear, characters in the wardrobe, highly physical slapstick choreography, and lots of highly absurd, suggestive, and naughty dialogue.
At first the play is a little slow to get going, the two least funny characters Tommy and George set the scene but struggle to get any serious laughs. There was a moment of doubt when I worried that I would have to sit through 90 minutes of a play that was not going to be very funny, but that all changed when wonderfully funny Megan Armstrong burst on to the stage as Tommy’s drunk sister Molly. From here on the pace picked up a relentless and highly speed as new characters were introduced and as the comedy moments exploded over the stage like a confetti cannon at a Pride event.
Armstrong is superb as Molly, a highly talented actress with well controlled, flawlessly delivered comedic timing. She steals the show for sure but is also the perfect comedy partner to the brilliant Christopher Lane who plays Eddie, Tommy’s camp, flamboyant, and slightly sadistic Talent Agent. The two dominate every scene they are in as they move around the tiny stage in a perfectly rehearsed game of theatrical tennis. The hectic physicality between these actors is perfection, a joy to watch and a definite compliment to Chris Woodley’s hilarious script and direction from Bryan Hodgson. Throw in the talents of Bridgette Amofah in the role of Judy Jenkins, high flying talent agent to the stars and Eddie’s nemesis, and you really do have the recipe for a hilariously funny, energetic comedy performance.
Tommy On Top is presented by Ben Paturel and John Owen in association with Andy Hill and Tom McGregor for Above The Stag Theatre. It is playing until 29th August and tickets are available from www.abovethestag.org.uk/tommy-on-top
Reviewer: Alan Stuart Malin
Reviewed: 29th July 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★