As we entered the Tom Mann Theatre on Cleveland Street tonight, my friend Colin whispered to me he was feeling a little ambivalent about seeing the show, “Hedwig and The Angry Inch”, despite the rave reviews, especially about the lead performance of iOTA. Although he didn’t say it, I suspect his concern was that it was an exercise in style over substance. I don’t think it was, though I’m not entirely sure what I’ve learned or experienced as a result of the show, aside from marvelling at the wonderfully energetic performance of iOTA. He’s a star!
The basic premise for the show is that, in the days before “The Wall” came down, a young East German man undergoes a botched sex-change operation (organised by his mother), so that he could marry his American soldier boyfriend. With shades of “Nina Hagen” and “Rocky Horror”, it’s a great premise, that leads ultimately to a fairly tragic life, though not without redemption in an American trailer park. As I visited East Berlin before “The Wall” came down, and it was a time of my own developing maturity, it’s also an era that fascinates me.
There were times when the plot was compelling and I “cared” deeply for “Hedwig” , such as in the sex change scene. There were, however, other times when I didn’t care, especially towards the end, as “the transformation” was dragged out a little too long (in my view), and it was almost as if “Hedwig” just wouldn’t leave the stage. Or maybe that was “the point” of it all?
iOTA is, without doubt a gifted performer! With a strong and versatile voice, and very good timing, he performs on stage for almost two hours without losing a beat.
In some ways, the show was strengthened and weakened by the lack of an interval. I suspect a fair percentage of the audience – including Colin – might have enjoyed a few minutes outside half-way-through, to stretch their legs, and to “process” what they were experiencing. Although I understand the artistic arguments why there was no interval, or maybe they had to be out of the theatre by a certain time?
In the midst of Mardi Gras, this was a welcome and challenging contribution.
But so impressed was I with iOTA that I came straight home and hopped on the net to Google him. He’s 34, and although living in now in Sydney, he’s originally from Mandurah, Western Australia…