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Fringe Report is now closed. Fringe Report closed on its 10th anniversary, Thursday 12 July 2012. It remains online as a record of 10 exciting years in the arts. Till July 2013, previously unwritten content is being added to the site from the past 10 years, but we are no longer reviewing new material. You can still write to us on the existing email addresses. Good luck with your shows.
Heelz on Wheels
Verdict: Chaotic, disabled gay-cabaret fun
At the beginning of Heelz On Wheels, a wheelchair is slowly lowered into a spotlight, centre-stage, to the loud, apocalyptic orchestral strains of what sounds suspiciously like Mozart's Requiem. Is this about to be a deadly serious commentary on disability, or does someone involved in this production have their tongue wedged firmly in their cheek?
It's not really either, fortunately. Although the cast all outwardly at least appear to have some form of disability, it's something that is neither made the elephant in the room nor the unsubtly obtrusive Serious Social Issue That Must Be Discussed quite simply, the characters are what they are.
A bizarrely arresting, at times chaotic mιlange of genres and performance types, if Heelz On Wheels was pigeon-holed as, say, a music-hall science-fiction cabaret-pantomime, there'd still be a few descriptive tiles left over in the bag. Part Rocky Horror Picture Show, part Derek Jarmans Jubilee, part 1980s workshop theatre piece, it's the story of a bunch of social rejects, oddballs and outcasts, seemingly inhabiting a derelict church in some kind of near-future dystopia. When Butch (Garry Robson) turns up looking for a replacement for the shoe he's lost, the gang decide to set up a ramshackle second-hand shoe shop (slogan: 'We Save Soles'), despite not having much in the way of either stock or customers.
The narrative which the performances are built around is just as ramshackle, and it's never particularly clear what's actually going on. But so enthusiastic, likeable and engaging are the performances particularly that of droll, Dorothy Parker-esque drag queen/shop proprietor Bona, drily played by Simon Startin that it never matters. And so the uniformly excellent cast is free to rattle through a series of witty, often touching Beckettian vignettes about the difficulties of being different, brilliantly accompanied by Sally Clay (Fannie) on accordion and keyboard and interspersed with rollicking, wonderfully irreverent panto-style singalongs the highlight being a Pythonesque ditty about learning to love your 'Inner Hitler'.
The screws could probably do with a little tightening as far as the actual narrative structure is concerned, but in terms of its unstoppable charisma and talent, these Wheels are certainly on fire.
Cast Credits: (alpha order): Sally Clay Fannie. Garry Robson Butch. Robert Softley Blanche. Simon Startin Bona.
Company Credits: Writer Noel Greig. Directors Russell Barr, Garry Robson. Musical Director/Composer Tayo Akinbode. Original Design Felicity Shillingford. Design Update and Costumes Lisa Ducie. Stage Manager Fiona Murdoch. Light/Sound Operator Andy Escott. Lighting Design Mike Francis. Costume Maker Kevin Freeman. Print Design - Reform Creative. Publicity and PR Steve Forster at SFP. Company Fittings Multimedia Art (UK). http://www.fittings.org.uk
(c) Dan Geary 2007
reviewed Monday 13 Aug 07 / Theatre Workshop
Fringe Report (c) Fringe Report 2002-2013