Grindr The Opera at Union Theatre
Yes you read the title correctly, at The Union Theatre there is a show currently running based on the gay hook up app Grindr! Within Grindr The Opera we meet 4 very different men, Don, a closeted gay man, Devon a Doctor fresh out of a long term relationship, Jack a twink who is happy to lower his standards for the right fee and Tom, previously a big fan of one night stands but can a chance meeting through Grindr change his ways? With Grindr coming to life in Siren form these 4 men are taken into his control as he urges then to continue their ‘Manhunt’ and ‘Get Ready To Grindr,’ as their lives begin to collide with very different outcomes.
Whilst the show could very easily be frothy and full of cliches the book by Erik Ransom was well put together and ensured that it had more than simple stereotypes, with themes cleverly woven together and a satisfying end to the whole affair, tying together these themes well.
The idea of Grindr being a siren was an intriguing one and a concept that many of us can identify with regarding social media in general. This concept with helped by an incredible piece of casting with Christian Lunn who played Grindr. Lunn simply oozed stage presence and with a voice that straddled the Opera and musical theatre genre so effortlessly it was easy to believe that he was a siren and that he had all of these men at his command. It is however a concept that I would have liked to have scene played out more throughout the show, showing Grindr as a master manipulator in even more detail.
The music was varied in styles, with some more traditional musical theatre style duets and quartets and others more operatic in style. Once you looked past some of the more traditional melodies and listen to the lyrics you will find that the melodies cleverly disguise much of the sexual innuendo (and more) and that this is a show not for the prudish (although the title itself probably gives this away). The show however was missing any hugely catchy numbers that I wanted to hear again and shortly after leaving I was struggling to hum any of the refrains heard.
The characters within the show are presented fairly simplistically however this is often needed to make the story work. Dereck Walker plays Don who is the villain of the piece. With depictions of sexual violence between himself and Jack, played by James Lowrie as an audience at this stage you think it is hard to dislike him any more yet as the show develops Walker succeeds in making Don even more odious. Santino Zapico and Billy J Vale play Devon and Tom, both of whom come across as loveable for very different reasons and Tom’s song ‘NSA’ really shows off his voice. Together Zapico and Vale had a lot of warmth and this really made me root for their relationship to succeed. Lowrie has the task of singing possibly one of the most brilliantly outrageous songs I have listened to at a show in the form of ‘C*m Dumpster’ which he delivered unflinchingly and with a cheeky smile throughout.
The set added to the eerie feel of the show with huge Cathedral like windows dominating the back of the stage with projections where needed. On stage there were 4 doorframes where our 4 Grindr users often appeared from and through which cleverly summons up the idea of men popping up onto the screen.
Overall Grindr The Opera is an intriguing piece of theatre with some exciting concepts running through it. It is a piece of theatre that already makes for a fun, entertaining night out and with some tweaks to the music and the book to make these concepts even stronger it could make a good show into an excellent one.
Grindr The Opera is on at The Union Theatre until 8th July. You can find out more information here.