Theatre Review: Call Me Vicky Treats Its Transgender Protagonist With Sensitivity
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Trudging up the skunk-scented Caledonian Road on an evening that also features an Arsenal home game, you're acutely aware how gritty these off-West-End streets are and how little has changed since the 1980s setting of Call Me Vicky. Transitioning 'Martin' would also have looked over his shoulder in the under-lit avenue on his way to a bright and brash club where he could be safely himself.
New voices, female writers, a sensitive treatment of a transgender theme based on a true story are so much more than box-ticking and there ought to be a worthwhile play to emerge from this recipe.
Unfortunately, it's a soup.
It's generous of the always-watchable Wendi Peters to lend her name to the project, but as Vicky's fag-toting, pie-eating mother she's not given enough good material or long enough scenes to flesh out what's probably the most interesting and authentic character in the story. As Martin/Vicky, Matt Greenwood has a better time of it with more to work on, even if he's essentially giving a perfect walking audition for Everybody's Talking About Jamie.
The story is hampered by the cardboard quality of the ancillary characters — does every drama about transgender issues have also to be set in seedy low-rent clubland where everyone's a smack addict, pimp, tart-with-a-heart, thief or dealer?
The crispy crouton atop the soggy bouillabaisse is Ben Welch's club host 'Fat Pearl'. Unevenly tottering on high heels, hairy as a bear and drily hilarious, it's as if Miles Jupp did drag. He deserves his own show, but this confident comic relief also serves to illustrate how much work the rest of the play still needs.
Call Me Vicky, Pleasance Theatre, Carpenters Mews N7, £16-£18. Until 9 March
Last Updated 01 March 2019