Review: Bleach (Laughing Horse @ 48 Below)
Updated: Jun 10, 2022
One man show? Check. LGBTQ+? Check. Edgy subject matter? Check. You now qualify as a Fringe show. The whole point of the Fringe is to be brave and quirky, rather ironically resulting in shows such as “Bleach” having a lot of competition for audiences, despite being free. Nevertheless, there’s still plenty of room to provoke, to challenge, to humour, and to encourage insightful thought about the modern landscape and lifestyle. And even if all those elements are ignored, a solid performance by a talented actor on the rise (or just one dreaming) can really make a show like this stand out and create a buzz.
The show starts off with our performer and writer Dan Ireland-Reeves insisting he is trying, instantly endearing you to his character Tyler Everette. The trouble was, I didn’t see an awful lot of anguish in Ireland-Reeves delivery, which seemed a little rushed and overly-instant. His portrayal immediately comes off as being too domesticated and likable to be likely to be swept up so easily into the world of prostitution. A naive, immature could have been an interesting angle on his character, and there are moments when it really shines, such as in Tyler’s gleeful description of his boyfriend James. However, it quickly becomes clear that that is not the intention, and that we, the audience, are meant to see this guy as a hard, street-wise renegade with some skeletons in his closet he can’t ignore. Having seen the copious number of awards for the performance I really wanted to be blown away, but I wasn’t convinced by Ireland-Reeves in the role despite his obvious writing talent. Something that stood out to me were the moments he swore: it is not the harsh, aggressive, snarling, accented delivery or threatening poise that takes you aback and makes you feel as though you are in imminent danger that you get from Pat Kinevane’s “Silence” or from any incarnation of “Trainspotting”, but more as though you are watching a teenager getting to grips with how to curse. It takes you out of the moment and makes it difficult to picture Everette's lifestyle convincingly.
What is obvious though is the potential of “Bleach”, but despite the work that has been put into it there are areas that need improvement. Weirdly, for a 50-minute show, I honestly found the plot hard to follow. The scenarios were too ambiguously described and were not different enough in terms of performance and visuals from previous or following scenes that it was difficult to differentiate the emotional states of Tyler at different points in the performance. Spoiler warning, but there are a couple of shocking deaths in this play, only I found them a little too confusing to be properly surprised. It is also rather laboured with clichés. With lines such as “everything and nothing matters” describing Tyler’s feelings when he learns of his sexuality just begs the question of how other LGBTQ+ performances on at the fringe are doing the exact same scene, and whether their approach is any more original. That is, I think, the best way I can describe this play. It fulfils what one expects of a one-man show about life as a male prostitute, but never surprises. Two stars.
“Bleach” is on at 15:45 at The Laughing Horse (venue 146) until the 11th of August