London's premiere gay fringe theatre is celebrating record box office figures for the past 12 months and looks set to build on its success in 2012.
Artistic director Peter Bull estimates around 2,500 people saw each of the productions put on at the Above The Stag theatre in Victoria in 2011.
Bull told Gay Star News: 'That's one night only at the Palladium, but it's pretty good going for a 58-seat venue.'
He explained that all theatres – including those in the West End – need to be at least 60% full for each performance to break even, but Above The Stage is regularly 95% full of paying customers (not including the complementary tickets given for each show).
He puts the success of the theatre, which has been open since October 2008, down to the mix of populist shows such as the recent pantomime, Sleeping Beauty: One Little Prick, and classic productions including the one last year based on EM Forster's classic novel Maurice.
The current show and theatre's 20th production, Sleeping With Straight Men, is a black comedy by Ronnie Larsen based on a true story about a gay man who went on an American chat show to reveal his secret crush on a straight neighbour – with tragic consequences.
The first act is played totally for laughs as we lead up to Stanley (Wesley Dow) making his live revelation on air. The second takes a darker turn as the object of his affection, homophobic waiter Lee (Adam Isdale) reacts in a way no one could have imagined in their worst nightmares.
The whole cast is uniformly good and the production values high – particularly for such a small theatre. There are some great lines, such as Stanley's: 'You're heterosexual, I'm homosexual, let's meet in the middle – how about in my bed?'
Julie Ross playing Stanley's mother gives a wonderfully moving speech about her son, and Martin Milnes, as Stanley's drag queen friend Sally, uses his falsetto voice to amazing effect on songs including The Lady Is A Tramp, New York New York and The Police's Every Breath You Take.
The theatre's patron, Hi Di Hi star Su Pollard, told GSN: 'What is really amazing is they did this with only five days' rehearsal. Everyone is brilliant; there's not a weak line in the chain.'
You can judge for yourselves as Sleeping With Straight Men is on at Above The Stag theatre in Victoria until 12 February. For information about this and forthcoming productions, call +44 (0)7562 748 599 or visit their site.