Tom is a superstar because he is “super at being a star”. That’s what he says in the first lines of his monologue. But what’s the truth behind Tom? And, most of all, is he really a star? What about his life, his personal relationships, his loves, his work and… the conversations on his mobile? After its success at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2018 where it won the Theatre Weekly “Outstanding Monologue” Award and another enthusiastic run in February at the VAULT Festival, “Velvet” written and performed by Tom Ratcliffe returns at the Above The Stag Theatre with its successful mix of drama and comedy.
In one hour, Ratcliffe tells us the life and struggles of young actor Tom, trying to make his passion for acting bankable just before his bank account starts to send worrying alarms. In the meantime, his mother shows his support in the most erratic way while his relationship with a wealthy City employee is on the verge of falling down to pieces. But a new figure appears in his life through a series of cheeky messages on Grindr. He is a powerful casting director, ready to handle to Tom the chance of his life. But success doesn’t come for free, especially if by someone who wants to be called Sir. Tom reluctantly accepts to start playing a game of images and videos with this mysterious and authoritative person.
Echoing the issues raised by #MeToo movement on predatory behavior but also reflecting on the struggles of an emerging actor with lots of determination but not so many cards available, “Velvet” is a captivating one man show which entertains and embitters. Ratcliffe is alone on the scene, varying brilliantly the pace and tone. His quick and sharp dialogues, in which he alternates across Tom and his mother, Tom and his boyfriend, Tom and his friends and colleagues, even if structured to obviously be managed by a single actor, help to create a sensation of loneliness where these characters have not a complete and deep relationship but a superficial acquaintance, standing like statues in front of each other staring, uttering words without never trying to establish a true connection. The relationship with Sir is different. Sir has another voice, their conversations are long with pauses and changes of tone and that is the reason why this bond becomes so deep and life-changing for Tom. As the bittersweet end approaches, we can only feel sympathy for this young actor, now more a shipwreck survivor than a superstar, leaving its audience with lots of questions about the misuse of power, the strength of our dreams and aspirations and what could happen if these two should disgracefully collide.
“Velvet” is at Above The Stag Theatre until October 27.