Songs And Atrocities: The View Upstairs At Soho Theatre
The View Upstairs imagines a dialogue between the trailblazers of the LGBT+ community and as today's — apparently self-absorbed — gender-fluid millennials. It takes place through a series of songs, veering from soft rock to disco and glam, offering some wry observations about what has and hasn't improved for the community since the 1970s — basically, a musical theatre bitch slap to anyone who takes for granted the right to be themselves.
Set in 2017, internet influencer and conflicted fashion designer Wes (Tyrone Huntley) has fled New York for New Orleans. He's bought a building, but he's either mixed his citalopram with his cocaine or got trapped in a time warp as he finds himself back in 1973. The building he has bought was the site of a largely forgotten arson attack on gay bar UpStairs Lounge that killed 32 people. It was the deadliest attack on the LGBT+ community until the Orlando Pulse nightclub attack.
Wes should be unlikable, but Huntley performs the role with a mixture of hubris and vulnerability that puts you on his side from the outset. The series of regulars who frequented the Upstairs Lounge (jaded bar owner and grumpy lesbian Henri, construction worker/drag queen Freddy, and seemingly-innocent Patrick) come to life and haunt Wes. And everyone has a song. Just as well these songs are catchy and funny.
As the show approaches its grim conclusion, it seems to run out of steam, as it tries to juggle too many worthy topics. But it's refreshing to see in the West End a new musical that isn't a revival or based on a film or a series of pop songs we've heard before. Instead, there is just a hard-working ensemble of actors in a show that offers a critical view on how far we have come.
The View Upstairs, Soho Theatre, Dean Street, W1D 3NE, £10-£19.50, until 24 August 2019.
Last Updated 29 July 2019