Velvet sees Tom Ratcliffe's campy, funny, character commanding the stage with Fleabag-esque honesty. The production takes us through the story of a young actor trying to further his career through an online affair, oscillating between Tom's real life as a struggling young actor and his online conversations. These get subtly more predatory as they move from Grindr, to WhatApp, to eventual video messages.
Typically of fringe theatre today, the play is told as a monologue—a style Ratcliffe has mastered. Impressions of slimy theatregoers, who are overly posh and inquisitive, had the audience chortling, and portrayals of Tom's family, friends and boyfriend were as endearing as they were dissecting. The subtle repetition of language associated with the #MeToo movement framed the play in current events, whilst still not pulling away from the central story.
The only other voice in the play is the monotone drone of the online messages being read out over speaker, as Tom lounges on a velvet sofa centre stage. This intimate lighting and external voice makes Tom's face gazing up at the audience seem young and unsure. Velvet holds nothing back as it takes Tom to the extremes of the destruction that online grooming can wreck on a person's life. The subtlety of the online conversation, moving from sexy and playful to uncomfortable and exploitative, is unnerving whilst still remaining realistic.
Velvet explores the struggle of the #MeToo movement, through the often ignored perspective of a young gay man. The play does not sensationalise, but rather highlights the sexual exploitation young actors are exposed to through a funny and throught-provoking lens.
Edited by Alexia McDonald, Head Digital Editor