Vault Festival: Beige

Where

Studio at The Vaults, Leake Street Tunnels, Waterloo.

When

25 Feb-1 Mar, 6pm.

Who

Written by Anna Wheatley, directed by Jess Daniels. Produced by Magna. Performed by Em Thane, Jordan Whyte, Sukey Willis and Jahvel Hall.

What

“You know that thing when yer dad’s a philandering absentee, yer relationships are forever on the wonk, and the binary don’t apply? Yeh, that’s Alex on the daily …”

Em Thane snd Jahvel Hall in Beige. Image by Ziebell Photography.
Em Thane snd Jahvel Hall in Beige. Image by Ziebell Photography.

How

Beige proves to be a terrific piece of drama, focusing on the character of Alex, who identifies as “they” but posits that rather than using the term non-binary they might start a trend of using the word “beige” as a gender-identifier instead.

Anna Wheatley’s assured new play presents Alex White as a real person finding their way in the stand-up scene which pausing now and then to show key moments from their life (school prom, breaking up with boyfriend, meeting partner Erin, dealing with discrimination at the school where they are both welcomed as token lesbian teaching assistant and bad influence on “the girls”).

A cast of four anchor this tale. Em Thane (an actor identifying as they)  is completely assured as Alex but also lets us see into the cracks inside their personality. They deftly handle the stand-up bits with self-deprecating humour and are quite believable as the teenager trying to suss out their own identity.

Jordan Whyte is the supportive, sweary mum we all wish for, while Sukey Willis skillfully navigates the demands of playing gender-fluid Erin and clueless teacher Mrs Andrews (who refers to Alex as she even on their school report and sees them as “withdrawn” and “tricky”).

Jordan Whyte and Em Thane in Beige. Image by Ziebell Photography.
Jordan Whyte and Em Thane in Beige. Image by Ziebell Photography.

The final cast member is Jahvel Hall, who plays boyfriend Dean (“you set me up to fail”) and the department head who plays lip service to employment diversity. He plays both roles well, particularly Dean who can’t adapt to where his “girlfriend” has gone.

Wheatley and director Jess Daniels utilise language and space to great effect. There are laugh-out lines, liberal use of the c word, a painting lizard who may be a hallucination, and creative set design from Ica Niemz, whose metal and light structure portrays anything from a porch or a bed to the displays in an art gallery.

Beige is all the letters at once in celebration and understanding, because limiting someone to a single box isn’t right for many. I felt drawn in to a tale where I rooted for Alex, their happiness, and their mother.

Judgement: Wow, Meow, or Furred Brow?

It’s a Wow for Beige. Something sweet, funny and rather wonderful, with many home truths and a lot to think about.

LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see Beige.

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