Singing the Blues in California – Review: The Stripper

Gloria Onitiri and Sebastien Torkia in The Stripper photo: David Freeman

Gloria Onitiri and Sebastien Torkia in
The Stripper – photo: David Freeman

Just when you managed to convince a young lady that suicide is not a good idea, she falls off the high-rise anyway. Detective Al Wheeler asks: Why? He was so close to having saved her life.

The St James Studio presents The Stripper, a whodunnit story set in 1960s California, written by Rocky Horror Show creator Richard O’Brien (lyrics), Richard Hartley (music) and Carter Brown (book) in 1985.

Director Benji Sperring knows his Richard O’Brien. Last year he staged to great acclaim Shock Treatment, the 1981 film sequel to the Rocky Horror Show. Now, Sperring has revised The Stripper and, in his tight direction, remains true to the film noir style of the story without compromising its quirkiness.

The eponymous stripper, Dolores, in the Extravaganza Club, is meant to have the answer to Wheeler’s question, but the clues also lead him to a set of bizarre characters such as the owners of a lonely hearts club, Sarah and Jacob Arkwright; their client Harvey Stern, a flamboyant florist; and back to the Extravaganza Club and its dubious owner Miles Rovak.

Sebastian Torkia plays the cool detective with his knowing and witty asides perfectly. Gloria Onitiri as Dolores is someone to watch out for: her stunning voice when she sings the blues with The Lonely Are Legend just grabs you. Hannah Grover, Marc Pickering and Michael Steedon enjoy the lion’s share of the fun delivering a crazy array of characters with great skill and versatility.

The score draws pleasantly on jazz, swing and rock’n’roll. Yet, there are some tunes one has heard elsewhere before.

It’s a highly entertaining production with first class performances throughout on a compact stage by Tim Shortall. There is no doubt that the glitter at the Extravaganza Club may be tinsel, but the production sparkles like a 24-carat diamond.

The Stripper runs at the St James Studio until 13 August 2016.

By Sabine Schereck

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