I feel as if there is a new category of theatre emerging which is late night performance for the performers. Shows like The After Hours Cabaret Club and Send Nudes, whilst being hilarious and accessible to everyone, are the perfect panacea for those who have spent a long hard night entertaining the masses and just want to wind down and kick up their heels and let someone else entertain them for a change.
Send Nudes is tailor-made for this audience because it is full of industry in-jokes about auditions, acting techniques, and performance making. The story is the tale of a young man (James Hardy) striving to break into the big time in theatre and (of course) find love. His problem is that he has a nemesis, Darrin, who always seem to be perfectly prepared, totally buff, and just a step ahead every time. Hardy ended up on the waiting list for VCA because Darrin got into the course. During an audition, the producers decided to make a play musical and Darrin just happened to turn up with sheet music whilst Hardy was completely unprepared. Normal, run of the mill, actor tribulations... Meanwhile, he is caught in the singles scene of broken hearts and unexpected awakenings after one night stands.
The structure of this cabaret/play is episodic and Jake Stewart plays all the other characters. Not the important ones like Darrin or Hardy's ex (played by a puppet). Stewart plays the minor characters - the supernumeraries or spear holders as we like to call them - and this is where we discover the true heart of Send Nudes.
Send Nudes is a cabaret about how not to make a cabaret. Bertolt Brecht would be proud of the dialectic of this work (and also, perhaps, the raw and pitchy singing). Stewart is a Master of Writing for Performance and he, along with co-writers Hardy and Lindsay Templeton, is playing mercilessly with the cabaret genre. As a fellow master of this craft, I was falling off my seat laughing as they do everything we are taught not to do in the making of performance. The ultimate joke is that by breaking all of those silly rules the performance actually works.
Songs are started but rarely finished. At one point, pianist Luke McShane is lit and the other two are completely in the dark as they sing a duet. There is no attempt at illusion as Stewart manipulates a very simple hand puppet. There is no attempt at costuming for Stewart's multiple appearances. The fourth wall is little more than rubble at the metaphorical foot of the stage.
Send Nudes is raw but it is funny. After a long night working, pop into The Butterfly Club for a cocktail and a laugh with these guys from Kissing Booth Productions. It is a perfect full stop to the day and will leave you feeling good about yourself and your life as you head back out into the wintery night.