Velvet - Above The Stag Theatre
London theatre news: Wednesday 18 September 2019
LGBTQ+ - Off-West End - Shows
Tom Ratcliffe's topical, touching and hard-hitting play - Velvet - finds a natural home at Vauxhall's Above The Stag Theatre from 2 to 27 October 2019 - we have a Q and A with the author/ performer.
Photo credit Lidia Crisafulli
With a critically acclaimed run at Edinburgh Fringe in 2018, and a highly successful UK tour earlier this year already behind it, VELVET - written by and starring Tom Ratcliffe - is heading to the Above The Stah Theatre theatre from 2 to 27 October (more listing information and a link to buy tickets are given at the end of this article).
Set against the backdrop of the 2017 #MeToo movement, Velvet explores the complex realities of harassment within the entertainment industry and how far a person is willing to go in order to achieve their dreams.
As the industry continues to reel from the exposure of its seedy underbelly, Tom finds this has done little to affect the choice he is presented with.
He is left to decide exactly how much he's prepared to compromise, and how far he is prepared to go in order to take this long-awaited chance to make his mark as an actor.
Combining darkly comic elements with moments of poignancy, this semi-autobiographical play looks at #MeToo from a gay male perspective.
Velvet seeks to explore this from the viewpoint of an unknown young actor with little public profile, who can see no reason why the world will care about his plight.
Velvet examines how external pressures from industry peers and family can lead a person down a path they would not be expected to take and indeed would never expect themselves to take.
Homing in on one young man's story, Velvet explores not only the agony of having to decide between compromise and career, but also the danger of how the public might receive them when all is revealed.
Tom Ratcliffe trained at The Oxford School of Drama.
His writing credits include:
Circa (Old Red Lion/Theater de Meervaart/The Vaults) & Gifted (Pleasance Theatre).
Tom was shortlisted for the Old Vic 12 in 2016 and longlisted for the Verity Bargate and Papatango awards in 2017.
His acting credits include:
Sket (Park Theatre), 5 Guys Chillin' (Kings Head Theatre/Assembly Roxy) & Wars of the Roses (Rose Theatre Kingston). Film credits include Once Upon a Time in London (Gateway Films).
Director Andrew Twyman's previous credits include:
Circa (Old Red Lion); Kanye the First (Hightide); Odd Shaped Balls (Old Red Lion); Don't Smoke in Bed (Finborough Theatre); 'Te Karakia' as part of Vibrant 2015: A Festival of Finborough Playwrights (Finborough Theatre); Reason and Force (King's Head Theatre); Fair Exchange (Tabard Theatre)
Here's a Q and A with writer and performer Tom Ratcliffe ...
Tell us a little bit about your show and what inspired you to write it.
VELVET is a one person show about the complex realities of harassment within the entertainment industry.
The play isn't solely about the abuse of power but looks at our need for recognition as a society and how the struggles of being in a highly competitive industry can lead someone down a path they would not expect to take; how far is someone willing to go in order to achieve their dreams.
I would be lying if I sat here and said that the show wasn't derived from some of my personal experiences I've had whilst working within the industry.
Of course, the prospect of turning something I'm essentially incredibly embarrassed and ashamed of into a huge positive and fantastic opportunity for my career was a significant part of what empowered me to write VELVET.
Turning negative experiences into positive influences is a philosophy I like to think I go by and I've really enjoyed writing and performing this play.
What do you hope that the audience will experience when watching this show?
I think they will be very uncomfortable (in the best possible way) as they should be!
It isn't a subject matter that is in any way comfortable and the show reflects that (although there certainly are lots of elements of humour in the show).
The audience will hopefully take away a broader understanding of how these situations arise; with much more depth and colour than simply good and evil or victim and perpetrator.
As well as this, I hope they'll empathise with the emotional and psychological damage that impacts those directly involved.
Finally, I'd like to think that their perception as the general public will be challenged in the way different people, depending on their standing (i.e. celebrity or unknown trying to make it) are perceived in situations such as these when all is revealed.
Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas?
I think performance is the BEST place for a public discussion of ideas.
For me, the best way to reach the hearts of people is through stories, whether based on a true story or not.
There is only so much depth you can get out of a two-minute TV news package or words on a screen.
The theatre has historically been a place to be outspoken and to generate discussion and I certainly believe it still serves this purpose and I hope so more than ever.
Obviously, the way to reach a greater number of people is through film, TV or web series these days but that is still performance; and that doesn't take anything away from live performance either.
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I think the funniest, and definitely most embarrassing, thing that has ever happened to me on stage occurred during the run of Sket at the Park Theatre.
I was playing JC who was a volatile, if not misunderstood, teenager and I had a scene where I grabbed one of the other actors and threw them around the stage.
The play was in a 90-seat space and was very intimate.
So one night I grabbed the other actor ready to throw, and as I did I let out a very loud (plastic chair in school style) fart - and as I felt this happening I just shouted over it!
It was very embarrassing (and let's face it; hilarious).
I had to carry on being angry for the rest of the scene.
That was really hard.
Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
As an actor and writer, especially as someone with a one-person show, it's hard to look past the likes of Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
I'm a big believer in creating your own opportunities and she is an exceptionally talented example of what it's possible to achieve.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Nothing fancy here.
I always make sure I do some sort of warm up before I go on.
I don't tend to take things too seriously before I get on stage as I'm trying to keep as playful as possible!
However, that's going to be far less fun being the only actor this time around.
Finally, who would you recommend comes to see the show?
I always find these questions hard as a writer because I always feel that there is something different for everyone to take away.
Maybe that's because subconsciously I want bums on seats, but I do think it's true!
I think those that have taken an interest in the events and revelations of the couple of years (in reference to the #metoo movement) should certainly come.
Those that work within the theatre/television/film industry will connect to the material, but the play certainly does not exclude those outside of that realm and it is a story everyone can follow.
I think those that have been in similar situations or have a close personal relationship with the #MeToo movement should do what is best for them mentally.
On a simpler level if you love a piece of theatre that will make you laugh before emotionally challenging you, this is one for you!
Show listing information
Tom has always dreamt of being a successful actor, and now after years of disappointment he is finally presented with his golden opportunity … and an impossible decision to make.
Set against the backdrop of the 2017 #MeToo movement, Velvet explores the complex realities of harassment within the industry from a gay male perspective.
However, when most creatives are riding the wave of change, will Tom's opportunity slip through his fingers?
Author: Tom Ratcliffe
Director: Andrew Twyman
Designer: Luke W Robson
Lighting: Jack Weir
From: Wednesday 2 October 2019
Closed: Sunday 27 October 2019
ActDrop full listing for Velvet
About London theatre news from ActDrop
We cover all kinds of news stories about theatre in the London area including items about West End, Fringe, Off West End and other venues, as well as new shows coming to the capital, theatre events like scratch nights, theatre festivals and other interesting theatre news that can't be so easily classified!
We'd love to hear from you if you have a news story we can share with theatre-goers.
If you are a producer, PR agent or a representative of a theatre company, we have a special page just for you.
And thanks for visiting ActDrop!