Although Taboo is predominantly a musical about Boy George, it also explores an entire era when photos were taken on film, and people communicated solely by telephone, writing or actually talking to each other!
It is the 1980s, and amidst a recession (so some things haven’t changed!) New Romanticism is on the rise, displacing the by then outdated Punk Rock. Within this world, the youth Billy is trying to follow his dream by making it big as a photographer. On arriving in London he encounters such figures as Boy George, Marilyn, Leigh Bowery and Steve Strange in a not wholly fictitious plot that explores all of the hopes and fears of the age.
Although the musical by Boy George, Mark Davies Markham and Kevan Frost is now ten years old, this current production represents a departure from its previous outings on the West End and Broadway. By taking place in the Brixton Club House, it goes some way to recreating the atmosphere of the real Taboo club, founded by Leigh Bowery in 1985. In such an intimate venue, with the audience seated just inches from the stage, we become a part of this unique scene where music, fashion and art all serve the purpose of rebellion and self-discovery.
The number ‘Everything Taboo’ most readily whisks us to the heart of this hedonistic world, and yet there is also real sadness in the story that hardly ends happily for everyone. Paul Baker makes an impression as outrageous Punk groupie, Philip Sallon, and yet his moving solo, ‘Petrified’, reveals the pathos beneath his outlandish exterior. Sam Buttery is suitably captivating as the artist Leigh Bowery, as he emerges through a hatch in the bar, sports his incredible trademark costumes, but then sees his life cut tragically short. Alistair Brammer has a passionate yet sensitive voice as Billy, while Matthew Rowland is spot on as Boy George who, he asserts, needs to be a star because he can’t be a man.
Taboo will raise your spirits and set your feet-a-tappin’, but it should also leave you feeling that you have seen more than just the public personae of some immensely complex people.
Londonist received a complimentary ticket and programme from the Target Live press team.