“A tour de force from Tom Ratcliffe”
If the #metoo campaign taught us anything last year, it’s that sexual harassment is far more common than we think – especially in the entertainment industry where (generally) younger and (generally) female individuals are too often coerced into performing sexual favours in the promise of getting some sort of career boost from it.
Velvet (written and performed by Tom Ratcliffe) shows it’s not always women that are the victims in these cases, as it follows the plight of a young male actor longing to hit the big time, and who finds himself questioning how far he’s willing to go to get ahead. After turning down a spurious offer of a drink from an overly familiar casting director, and subsequently being dropped by his agent, Tom thinks twice when he is contacted on an app by an apparent big-wig in the film industry. Should he put his scruples aside to potentially further his career? And what would his partner think if he did?
While perhaps not the most original of plots, Velvet does go to show an honest and accessible account of one actor desperate enough to dance with the devil, with sufficient depth and perspective to make it a balanced and gripping show. It’s a fairly pacey piece, with scenes jumping from one to the next to push the story along, but it’s those where Tom converses with the mysterious man online that are the most disquieting and pleasingly restrained. Something about seeing each message flash up on screen behind the action gives added weight to the dark discourse, and the development of this plot-line in particular is edge of the seat stuff – how would any of us respond given that situation?
As a one-man show it’s a tour de force from Ratcliffe, who himself plays everyone from snooty agents to stuffy actor friends, and even his own mum. Only at rare moments do individual personalities blur, and it would be great to see some more extremes and risk-taking come to the fore to make each and every character unique and identifiable.
There are a couple of convenient coincidences and moments in the script where suspension of disbelief is pushed to its limits, but on the whole this is an honest and heartfelt performance that I could very happily sit through again. It’s only my seventh show of the Fringe this year, but absolutely my favourite so far. Well worth watching if you’re an (aspiring) actor, in particular.
Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 5 August)
Visit the Pleasance, Potterrow & Teviot archive.