Prefer Not to Say, Paradise in the Vault, Until 25 August * * *
Splintered, Bedlam Theatre, Until 25 August * *
Both use testimony collected through interviews with the LGBT community presented as a series of verbatim sketches. The Riot Road company canvassed opinions around the UK over a period of 18 months, producing the quickfire monologues of Prefer Not To Say.
Despite opening with a striking Sally Bowles dominatrix drag queen and her three eager cheerleaders, it is clear that life is not a cabaret for these individuals. The themes which emerge – the polarised debate on trans rights, religious intolerance, coming out to parents – are familiar but remain relevant, and are well represented in slick, naturalistic performances which really inhabit those voices and explore the nuances of an experience which is far from uniform.
The Caribbean is still one of the worst places on earth to be gay – just check out the brazenly homophobic lyrics of some Jamaican dancehall tracks for starters – but Splintered celebrates a proud, determined subculture with its self-styled carnival. After all, what is carnival, if not a celebration of emancipation?
The three young female performers have dance-floor energy, infectious enthusiasm and cheeky humour in abundance but their delivery is a bit chaotic and the material is not sufficiently finessed to hang together as a satisfying hour of theatre.