Thomas Howells reviews Greedy Pig Theatre Company’s new production, Peacock at Newport’s Riverfront Theatre.
GLAMOROUS, the costumes and set. GORGEOUS, the choreography and characters. GREAT, this incredible story so eloquently depicted. Not just one of the greatest plays I’ve seen at the Riverfront in Newport but one of the greatest I have seen ever. Peacock. I literally wanted to start uncontrollably clapping in the middle of the play!
The weighty, beautiful story of overcoming insecurity, love and dreams has made this one of my favourite productions of all time. I especially loved how near all the background plots connected to each other and major themes – showing how closely knit the group (Violet, Seamus and Tyrell) are with them always connecting their interests and supporting each other. And regardless of how dire things seem and times, when there is not a dry eye in the theatre, they always manage to give a reassuring, shaky laugh to everybody. Nothing short of moving and truly winsome. The powerful characters come through everything, fight for what they believe in and for each other – it’s really satisfying. Douglas Murdoch’s work in this is extremely respectable.
When Seamus, a psychic shop’s employee, realised he was bisexual, he thought he had finally figured everything out. But when he starts experimenting with makeup and falling in love, he finds himself on a journey of discovery about what it means to be a man who sometimes wants to be both masculine and pretty. Peacock is an uplifting, hilarious, and authentic look at the taboo surrounding men wearing makeup.
On the topic of the characters, my personal favourite was Violet (though I will say it seems everybody had a different favourite for a million different reasons). Alexandra Wollacott did an amazing job of presenting her as a strong, supportive and self-dependent person who fights for what she believes in. Her energy and openness shined through this character and I loved how Wollacott really made it her own.
Of course, Ben Armitage’s depiction of Seamus was just as amazing – they were all great – he’s creative and capturing, he’s supportive and he would go through a lot of self-sacrifice for the people he loves. It’s moving seeing how he and Tyrell develop as people together – learning honesty, learning love. Kofi Dennis played a major role in the success of this partnership as his depiction of Tyrell was fabulous whether he’s sad or happy, living his dreams or being a psychic. The performance is consistently amazing and when he came on stage, he brought excitement and fun.
Noah’s story is one of my favourites. Depicted by Toby Mitchell his character heavily explores toxic masculinity and how it affects men’s mental health. There’s an important discussion on how people are trained to not be open about their emotions and how that leads to extremely tragic events. He himself though hilarious. Always extremely blunt and very sweet – Noah is such an amazing character and Mitchell portrayed him perfectly.
I wish I could just go on and on about all the amazing layers to the story. I think the production process with a lot of engagement from many people and perspectives through workshops helped make this play like no other.
The set, designed by Lex Kaby, was just perfect. The transitions between locations were seamless and genius – it could go from a beautiful homely shop to a glorious drag show in seconds. One of my favourite details is the crystals in the background all in the pride colours. Pride is obviously a major part of this play and I think it’s perfect that it’s coming around during LGBT+ history month because this is certainly one of the best plays with LGBT+ themes I have ever seen – right up with Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Falsettos.
As I mentioned, there were amazing drag pieces in the play. Kaby was also responsible for designing costumes and did not disappoint – every costume really captured the character and the drag dresses were glorious. I adored every second of the play but these scenes were a true highlight. While the costumes were a major part of them, the choreography by Alex Wollacott and Kofi Dennis themselves created such fun and loving pieces. There is no way of describing the heart that was in those pieces – it didn’t feel like it was coming from a place of seeking perfection, just a place of seeking a fun time for everybody on stage and in the audience.
I genuinely can’t express how relatable, powerful and important Peacock is. I loved it. My friends loved it. The whole audience loved it. I hope it goes far – I pray I get to see it again at some point in the future. This play, the theatrical community, everybody deserves it.
Sonia Marwaha adds that she felt the play was hilarious but incredibly moving. She points out that very little media discusses issues like makeup stigma among men and the problems bisexual men uniquely face. The play handles it artfully and though there were only four actors they really filled the stage and brought it to life – “And oh my god it was just such a beautiful play I loved it.”
- For further details on Peacock and tour dates visit Greedy Pig Theatre’s website