Callisto: A Queer Epic, Arcola Theatre | Review

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Callisto: A Queer Epic
Arcola Theatre
Reviewed on Friday 8th December 2017 by Shaun Dicks 

“To be patient is to suffer.”

Arcola Theatre. London’s East End. Four stories all about a community that knows suffering all too well. The LGBT community. The theatre is bare – no props or furniture set – just the harsh concrete floor and the bare brick walls. We are set in the thrust and are welcomed by edgy, East End music. The music and lights drop, the show begins.

The show follows four different LGBT stories all in different time periods. They have their own narratives and different characters but they all fall on to two similar topics; suffering and love. The script of this show is a gem. Hal Coase has created a rich and full script that is a wonder to see being brought to life by the actors. There was a richness to the dialogue that was natural but moving. Credit should also be given to director Thomas Bailey, the way that the show moves - scene to scene, time period to time period - was well executed for the most part.

However, there are two downfalls to this show. The first, is the story set in space; these scenes were basic, under rehearsed and ultimately lacklustre. It felt like this story had been given less time and care in its rehearsals. It’s one saving grace was Cal (Nicholas Finerty), this character was endearing, innocent and charming. Unfortunately, the second downfall of this show – excluding the character Cal – was the performance of the male cast. The men within the show were one-dimensional, simple and lacking any type of edge. There was so much to work with story wise, it was disappointing that the men didn’t capitalise.

Thankfully for this show and its audience, the women of this show, stole it. These women created well rounded, fully realised characters. They made us feel, laugh and gasp. Whether it was a cheesy 70’s porn scene, locked up in a tower or in the comfort of home; the scenes were intriguing, captivating and hilarious. The woman who really stole the show for me was Phoebe Hames (Isobel, Nurse, Aunty), her performance was simply outstanding. Hames’ comedic timing was something to be savoured and enjoyed. 

The script is scintillating, the direction is clever and the acting on the female side is exquisite. If that were replicated by the other half of the cast, we would have one hell of a show on our hands. In its current form the show is good, and is well worth a watch. The stories deserve to be heard and there are some performances that needs to be seen. 

Callisto runs at the Arcola Theatre until December 23rd

Photo credit: Lidia Crisafulli