The Olivier Award-winning tale of 80s superstar Boy George is back on stage. Yes, musical biopic Taboo has returned. Gloriously eccentric, wildly decadent and fabulously opulent yet with a constant subterranean sadness, Christopher Renshaw’s production of the Boy George musical is fine-tuned perfection.
The plot follows two young lovers Billy (Alex Jordan-Mills) and Kim (Devon-Elise Johnson) in their quest to succeed in the exciting artistic climate of 80s London, an era which was defined by its superstars and the New Romantic movement. On moving to the city, Billy meets Boy George (Paul Treacy) and Leigh Bowery (Sam Buttery), and the audience are drawn into the depths of the extravagant world of stardom, accompanied by the era’s smash hits.
The Brixton Club House is transformed into the perfect set. With its dark walls, fully stocked bar, smoky interior and a stripper-esque stage, you are physically brought into the realms of the sordid and forbidden 80s nightclub. As much as the actors are depicting debauchery, your surroundings also work hard to involve you in it.
A whirlwind of a history that tracks the career of Boy George in just under three hours, the actors do well to convincingly portray the chronological shifts. Treacy’s performance is faultless and his resemblance to the star uncanny – both physically and vocally. Strong vocals were evident from each cast member, with Katie Kerr (Big Sue) and Julia Worsley bringing impressive power to the female roles. Sam Buttery was utterly absorbing as Leigh Bowery and Paul Kevin-Taylor shone in his three roles as Derek, Lucien Freud and Petal. His performance of Petal, the drug-pushing transgender hooker, was particularly entertaining.
Especially noteworthy was Olivier award-winning actor Paul Baker. Baker played an articulate, witty and slightly menacing Philip Salon and both narrated and acted in the production. A wonderful comic presence, Baker’s snarling and withered facial expressions were brilliantly timed, and his interaction with the audience both unnerving and incredibly amusing.
“From squat to superstardom, from rock to rock bottom”, Taboo traces the turbulent emotional period of one of England’s greatest icons, but avoids the trap of creating too dark an atmosphere. Turmoil, laughter, loneliness, success and lashings of brilliant music, Taboo is an award-winning sensation that demands attention.