Alan Flanagan’s Bingo is an LGBT one-man show that, whilst comedic, deals with the seriousness of gay male sexual health. Produced by SLAM this 60 minute humorous monologue is at the Pleasance Downstairs until the 24th June.
“Flanagan’s witty and clever writing and energetic performance whizzes by.”
Bingo tells the multilayered story of Cormac; an Irish gay man in London whose sexual escapades are relatable and reflective of a large portion of the gay male life in London. Saunas, orgies and chem parties: Cormac discloses to us how being ‘different was fucking dandy as far as [he] was concerned’. Whilst his sex life in retrospect is seen as dangerous, causing him to contract every STI under the sun, Cormac makes a beautiful point when he states that ‘what [he] did wasn’t wrong… it was careless’. This is a really poignant moment in his performance for me. The promiscuous behaviour of gay men is often talked about in a more negative light than in heterosexuals and is frequently described as ‘wrong’ so there was something really empowering in hearing those words. Flanagan’s witty and clever writing and energetic performance whizzes by. This 60 minute performance feels far quicker than it is; there isn’t a moment where I am not fully engaged and immersed in Flanagan’s storytelling.
However, whilst the story is engaging there are parts that are sadly lost on the audience due to imprecise delivery. The pace is fast but at times too fast, mixed with a beautiful Irish accent this makes me lose some of the lines. His comedic timing leaves much to be desired; whilst, some of the jokes land, others were lost due to sheer pace. These jokes are treated almost as thrown away lines which lose their desired impact on the audience. Flanagan has also picked up a few bad performance habits. A lot of his jokes are indicated by the tone that he uses, a method that too obviously indicates to the audience that he has written it to be a joke. This becomes problematic when the audience responds with silence.
Overall, this performance needs more variation of pace, breath and pauses, particularly in the more emotionally driven moments, to allow us to feel with Cormac. This show almost brings me to tears but because of the pace, I am not able to fully emotionally connect with the moments that could have set me off. In addition, I want Flanagan to connect more with the character in his performance. Because the pace is fast and the performance feels like a series of jokes, the truthfulness of the character are lost at moments. If he were to focus less on being humorous and allow for his characterisation and performance to do that for him he would have a greater impact on the audience.
“I thought I knew my STIs but this show has managed to educate me further.”
I don’t think the Pleasance Downstairs is an entirely fitting space for this performance. The stage design is minimalistic with only one chair and one performer to fill the space and the stage’s thrust configuration doesn’t aid the performance. I often feel that the audience sitting at the end of stage misses a bit of action even though Flanagan attempts to engage with them. This show’s lighting design is very minimalistic and at times this is to the detriment of the performance. With a simple addition of a spotlight the quality of the production could be elevated, adding variation and more effectively signposting the different parts of the story. This would also assist in making the stage feel less bare.
Cormac has it all: ‘HIV, Hepatitis C, Syphilis, Herpes, HPV, Chlymidia and Gonnareah’. This is a clever storytelling tool that allows this production to inform and educate the audience in STIs and their treatment. But most importantly it reminds us that HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was. I thought I knew my STIs but Bingo has managed to educate me further. This show, in my opinion, doesn’t belong in a theatre. It needs to be performed in spaces outside of those structures for it to engage with communities that don’t/can’t/won’t engage with traditional theatre spaces. With carefully constructed educational workshops to accompany this production, this piece has the potential to explore the multifaceted issues presented in a different and engaging way.
Bingo has great potential and I hope with a few changes this production’s undoubtedly witty and poignant performance can produce the impact it deserves.
Image: Lidia Crisafulli