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Friday, 1 February, 2002, 16:29 GMT
George breaks 80s Taboo
Euan Morton plays Boy George
The songs are a mixture of old and new tracks
By BBC News Online's Emma Saunders

The 1980s has been enjoying something of a revival of late. Punk and new romantic fashions are back on the high street and various 80s bands are back on tour.

Last year, the Pet Shop Boys attempted to bring this flamboyant era to the stage with their musical Closer to Heaven.

Now 80s icon Boy George has written the music and lyrics to musical, Taboo. It deals with similar themes of love, drugs, homophobia and HIV against the backdrop of clubland.

Based on the book by Mark Davies, the plot centres on wannabe photographer Billy - played by Luke Evans - who escapes his dull existence in the suburbs to try his luck in London.

Leigh Bowery died in 1993 from meningitis caused by AIDS
Matt Lucas is larger-than-life as Leigh Bowery
He falls in love with the vulnerable Kim - played by Dianne Pilkington - and joins the in-crowd, frequenting the now legendary Blitz club and hanging out with trend-setters such as Steve Strange - played by Drew Jamyson - and Philip Sallon - played by Paul Baker.

References to former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher and unemployment are made by Billy's father in the first scene, and some might have been expecting some serious political commentary.

However, it soon becomes clear that the storyline plays second fiddle to the glitz of clubland and a good old dash of nostalgia.

A few quality songs, some witty one-liners and exuberant performances from a solid cast allowed the shortcomings of the script to go largely unnoticed.

Comedian Matt Lucas, best known as George Dawes from BBC comedy game show Shooting Stars, is superb as the legendary Leigh Bowery, stealing the scene with his larger-than-life personality and outrageous costumes.

Euan Morton puts on a great show as Boy George himself - a proud, brash, hedonistic pop star who descends into drug addiction.

Dianne Pilkington and Luke Evans
Kim and Billy split up over Bowery

But while real-life characters such as these need no introduction, the "ordinary" members of the cast suffer as the story is crammed between numerous high-energy club scenes.

Billy and Kim are painted as the perfect, loved-up couple, so it seems bizarre that Kim believes the unfounded rumours that Billy has slept with Bowery.

Worse is the relationship between Kim and Billy's mother Josie - played by Gemma Craven.

They form an incredulous relationship over the phone before Josie escapes her tyrannical husband and moves to London to set up a design business with her would-be daughter-in-law.

The idea of the downtrodden housewife leaving it all behind is an empowering one but under these circumstances it is implausible.

This is a shame, because Craven is wonderfully natural and belts out the stomping track Independent Woman with great aplomb.

Ultimately, the gripes about the plot should not seriously dampen your enjoyment. It is an entertaining night out, especially for anyone who can remember bondage trousers first time around.

It does not linger too long on the drug and HIV issues and ends on a high with the chorus singing - you guessed it - Culture Club hit Karma Chameleon.

Taboo is fun while it lasts but instantly forgettable - a bit like the 80s really.

Taboo is on at The Venue theatre in Leicester Place, London

The BBC's David Sillito
"Sex, drugs and far, far too much make-up"
See also:

30 Jan 02 | Showbiz
Matt Lucas's comic extremes
29 Jan 02 | Showbiz
Curtain up on Boy George's Taboo
06 Apr 01 | Entertainment
George's glamour goes on
17 May 01 | Music
Fry gets romantic about the 80s
03 Aug 98 | Entertainment
Let's hear it once again for the Eighties
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