Venus as a Boy

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
National Theatre of Scotland Workshop and Burnt Goods
Tam Dean Burn, (adaptor and co director), Christine Devaney (co director)
Tam Dean Burn (Cupid), Luke Sutherland, Musician
Running time

The play is based on the internationally acclaimed novel by Luke Sutherland. Perhaps inspired by the lyrics of Bjork's song - "he sets off/the beauty in her/he's Venus as a boy," - the story tells the recollections of a gorgeous Orcadian boy, "Desiree", a London male prostitute with a heart of gold who yearns to find true love. The memoirs are acted out by narrator/ performer Tam Dean Burn with musical accompaniment by Luke himself.

Scene one: South Ronaldsay, Orkney. "Desiree" as a young boy suffers parental neglect, bullying and loneliness yet relishes the wild freedom of his island home, the landscape, the light and the sea. "It is who I am", he says. He is a true romantic, falling in love with pretty girls at school, captivated by Finola and her Czech mother, Eva.

With a quick change of accent, a white sheet as a shawl, Tam Dean Burn switches in an instant between characters, then back again to first person narrator. The live music (electric guitar and violin), shifts the mood, pace and rhythm in tune to the story. On a simple set, a wooden plank, an occasional chair and effective lighting, we move from hillside to seashore to school disco as our young hero experiences his teenage kicks and becomes aware of his sexual awakening.

He meets the angelic Tracey, making love to reach orgasmic heights of ecstasy, so much so she renames her young lover Cupid. But in true poetic fashion, it all ends with "bitter pangs of love forsaken."

Scene Two: Soho, London. A tragic encounter with Radu, a Romanian taxi driver and Pimp drags Cupid into the sordid underworld of the sex trade. Working with male whores, lady boys and transsexuals, he masquerades as Desiree, and survives on jellies, hormones, valium and champagne to mask the pain.

On stage as Tam Dean Burn dons gold stilettos and a slick of lipstick, we witness the gradual transformation from sensitive, good-hearted Scottish boy to a damaged, destroyed soul as a man, who sells himself for sex but cannot find true love. "Who doesn't want to be adored," he cries, still pining for Tracey, still pining for Orkney.

Venus as a Boy is a magical, enchanting, heartbreaking morality tale, dramatised with beautiful economy, imagination and passion. A tour de force performance by Tam Dean Burn, perfectly echoed by a specially composed soundtrack by Luke Sutherland. The ancient art of storytelling at its best.

Show times: 2- 26 August, various times each day. Check Fringe brochure.