Its owner, Clayton Littlewood, kept a diary of his time there, which first became a book, now a stage show.
This three-hander, starring David Benson and newcomer Alexis Gerred, covers the three years Littlewood spent running the shop, but, though occasionally engaging, it feels more like a series of sketches than a proper play.
Littlewood is clearly a talented writer and able to conjure up interesting images of the area he knows so well and the people he encountered during that time. Some of the lines he comes up with – particularly in relation to Soho instutitions such as The Stockpot – are exquisitely funny, and some of his characters, like transsexual Angie, are brilliantly written.However, he is not an actor, nor a natural public speaker, and is prone to fits of giggles when he should stay stoic and also to mouthing Benson’s lines while waiting for his own cue. This really detracts from the strength of the production. He also fails to convince in any moment where he veers away from straightforward narration. An actor could have done so much more with these stories.
Gerred also struggles due to the patchiness of the material and is only briefly able to show off his dramatic versatility. His vocal skills are not quite strong enough for the pop numbers that tie the vignettes togther; when he attempts the high notes things get a little strained.
Thankfully, veteran David Benson manages to hold the piece together with his myriad interpretations of Littlewood’s characters. He displays a real variety of voices and accents: playing both sides of an elderly gay couple, a Diana Ross impersonator called Chico, and a bailiff. Benson is a witty actor able to show nuance within even the briefest of character sketches, and the show benefits hugely from his steadying presence.
Dirty White Boy is not quite a vanity project, but its appeal is likely to be limited to people who are familiar with that particular Soho scene.