Pros: Nice tunes, good use of voiceover and some funny moments that capture the absurdities of attraction.
Cons: Some lacklustre acting and superficial treatment of its theme meant the show lost some of its steam.
In Bad Taste, London-based performance artist Daren Pritchard puts forth his hyperbolic version of a modern-day young gay man’s search for sex, romance and self-definition. Naturally, he’s looking in all the wrong places, or judging by when he cheekily glances at the almost-but-not-quite inessential model on stage, nearly all the wrong places. The world of fashion is partly on trial and so there are far fewer fashionable places you can be on a Sunday evening than the chilled out and inspired basement bar of the modishly-titled Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes in Shoreditch, to give its full name (just glance up at the signs above both windows, and you’ll see why!).
From his first one-night stand the young man discovers that by being clean-shaven, tanned, and most prized of all, skinny, he is able to employ a persona of pumped up and empowered effeminacy in dating and bedding hot men. But as the piece develops, the bolstered façade begins to crumble and a more complicated picture of this young man’s thoughts and feelings emerge, as does the troubles he has in coming to terms with the trappings of the Grindr-dominated, “no-strings attached” approach to the sexual hook-ups of gay culture.
Through a good dose of exhibitionism, on-stage ingesting, and more subdued moments, the discourses of consumerism are dissected, including what’s considered attractive in body image and in male sexuality. We are in a young man’s apartment, the back wall of which is plastered with magazine photos of men who all have in common that they are muscular, tanned, ‘good looking’ and naked – much like the hunky model who stands near Daren for most of the show. Accompanying those background images are two signs: ‘please don’t feed the models’; and above that, ‘please photograph me #inbadtaste’. The former statement seems contestable, but the latter is a dogma we all live by from the impetus accompanying the opening number, a sultry male version of Madonna’s Looking for Love, where Daren Pritchard does this strange but impressive thing of getting undressed to get dressed.
There were some insights to the show, for example when witnessing a character acting publicly in private, and by this I mean, publicly all the time. This seemed modern and relevant. Seeing Daren devour all manner of things on stage – Coke, wine, pasta, strawberries, and skittles – was perhaps the most interesting part, except that it made me feel icky. The audience really enjoyed the musical bits and voiceovers where Daren was being flirtatious or flagrantly immoral, but overall I found the characterization and expression of the ideas very two-dimensional and therefore of limited appeal.
After eating regular food, Darren turns to material that is harder to digest, such as the posters and the gauze cloth upon which is written the sardonic code of Kate Moss, ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’. A spectacle this may be, but other than that, not very engaging. The acting was sometimes lacklustre when the character was down, somber and trying to communicate despondency with the failure to live up an ideal they ultimately don’t desire or admire.
Still, it is always brave of someone to reveal themselves so readily and fully, and when they are trying to make a serious point, new and emerging artists should be given the space and encouragement to develop and grow. There are many people who will no doubt enjoy seeing an alternative and provocative act like this, however, for this reviewer, the point about bad taste needs to be more convincingly made.
Performer: Daren Pritchard
Booking Until: This show has completed its run. For more information visit: http://darenpritchard.co.uk/Current%20Projects/IN%20BAD%20TASTE.html