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Dandy in the Underworld

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Tim Fountain has adapted this play from the outrageously funny autobiographical book by Sebastian Horsley, a regular character around Soho.

Horsley is an artist, a recovering heroin addict, a sexual predator and a failed suicide by voluntary crucifixion.. He's flamboyantly dressed, lavish in his lusts and with a kind of Oscar Wilde talent for a witty turn of phrase. In this adaptation he's played by the very handsome Milo Twomey, who bears a close physical and vocal resemblance to his subject.

“I have invested 90 percent of my money in prostitutes, the rest on Class A drugs, the remains I squandered,”  is the quote from the back of the play script and it just about sums up the man showing his wit, his self deprecating humour and the underlying tragedy behind all the flamboyance of his personality. He describes himself as a child as “A boy forced to live in the real world which I didn’t much care for.”

Paul Wills' design has an air of opulent, cosy weirdness about it. A huge desk holds his laptop (which he refers to constantly) and above it a case of 25 skulls neatly arranged in rows of five. There are paintings and press cuttings placed carefully around the walls and his easel is covered with a cloth.

Sebastian has obsessive compulsive disorder - he's incredibly tidy and he counts everything, even the petals on a sunflower. His 30 suits (which he counts for us - twice) are kept in identical plastic covers and are all neatly arranged on a moveable clothes rail. Twomey appears first of all in a silk dressing gown. He selects his clothes for his luncheon date – a three-piece beautifully tailored suit in scarlet velvet, which he finishes off with a scarlet top hat, white kid gloves and a diamante cravat.

This is a man who delights in being different and twisting logic, most of it is clever and amusing. “Normal sex hasn’t been the same since women started to enjoy it,” he tells us, while on at least one occasion he slips in an old music hall gag which he must have heard as a child. It fits his style, but comes as quite a surprise.

Twomey’s characterisation is so precise one would believe he was the real thing, if it wasn’t for the fact that the real Sebastian was actually there in person on press night. Also in the audience was another of the characters from his book, his mother, who provides one of the few really poignant reminiscences. She goes to visit him in hospital while he's withdrawing from heroin and crack. She sits on his bed and asks, "Have I failed you as a mother Sylvester?". He replies "It’s Sebastian, mother".

- Aline Waites


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