The thing about Edinburgh Fringe is that it always has its finger on the pulse, if something is happening in the world than there’s almost certainly a fringe show about it. Unsurprisingly, the recent #MeToo movement is a dominating theme this year, but Tom Ratcliffe’s Velvet reminds us that sexual harassment isn’t just something experienced by women.
Ratcliffe is both writer and performer in this production, and he shows himself as particularly adept at both. He plays a young gay actor, on the bottom rung of the career ladder but desperate to climb to the top as quickly as possible. All manner of opportunities present themself but just how far is he prepared to go for fame and fortune?
The character doesn’t make particularly good decisions, and is led astray perhaps a little too easily, but the shrewdness of the script allows us to really focus in on, and understand the reasons these choices have been made. Both shocking and poignant Velvet gives us plenty to think about, and in ways we’ve probably never thought about the subject before.
Ratcliffe plays a number of characters, including a city slicker boyfriend and casting director. The transition between the characters is fast-paced and it’s sometimes a little difficult to keep up, but the overall performance is very strong indeed. By the point he declares “I hate myself” he looks emotionally drained, and the audience can empathise with that too.
Director, Andrew Twyman has allowed Ratcliffe to tell the story in a beautifully honest way, while Grindr and Whatsapp conversations appear on a screen behind. Of course, this is a very topical play and it had it not been for the events of the last twelve months could easily have been dismissed as outlandish.
Instead Velvet allows us a glimpse at a terrifying scenario which brings agony and heartbreak to the protagonist. Tom Ratcliffe, in both his writing and performance shares a darkly comic story which borders on being a taught thriller, as the audience are left wondering what will happen next. This is a refreshingly emotional play which keep audiences enthralled from beginning to end.
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