Maybe it was the two large glasses of wine I’d drank before entering the theatre, or the giddy excitement of the sunshine in Soho in the middle of July. Maybe it was the steady euphoria of it being three hours until my birthday, and the expensive French cigarettes I was smoking. Either way, Dickie Beau’s Blackouts is one of the most strikingly affecting and superb pieces of theatre I have had the privilege of seeing.
Blackouts is a wet dream. One that involves misery and faded glamour and a bunch of people you shouldn’t really have slept with. You wake up once it’s over, sweating in the heat, the orgasmic catharsis of spectacle subsiding into drab reality and the need for a bunch of tissues. The sixty minute show is split into two halves; the first concerning Marilyn Monroe and the latter Judy Garland. Dickie Beau is a mime artist, who enacts each woman to a deliriously expert standard. From Monroe’s final interview to Garland’s private recordings, Dickie Beau’s lip-sync is often overwhelming to watch. It is a crescendo that rises ceaselessly and refuses to plateau.
As he recreates Monroe’s subway grate moment, we begin to cry in all manner of different ways. We cry for Marilyn, we cry for ourselves. We cry as gay men who will forever lust after the weird glamour of the female débutante, the femme fatale, the cinema siren. We cry for the icons and the iconoclasts, for everyone beautiful who had to die. After Monroe, comes the awful sardonic rage of Garland. Her cigarette-stained voice, mad and drunk, heckles out of Dickie, who’s dressed as an undead Dorothy. It is here that the humming crescendo reaches its horrible finale. Dorothy grew up, and she’s furious.
The cleverness of the entire show is very hard to explain and difficult to examine. It is so incredibly visceral and vitally human that perhaps it is better not to try. Let the melancholy wash over you like salt water on a wound you’d forgotten about instead. Allow yourself the hour to witness Dickie Beau as mouthpiece for two women who were denied access to a voice that was their own. Leaving the theatre, I felt dazed and oddly humbled by the whole experience. Looking around, I realised I was not alone. Watery eyes met the blithe noise of Dean Street, and I knew immediately that Blackouts is a universally unforgettable show.
Dickie Beau’s ‘Blackouts’ is on at the Soho Theatre until the 27th of July. If you miss, you’re an idiot. Book online at: www.sohotheatre.com