EdFringe 2018 Review: Bottom

Rating: ★★★

Venue: Summerhall – Cairns Lecture Hall

Opening with Willy Hudson running onto a stage littered with pink props, wearing only a pink towel. The twenty-seven year old asks an audience member if he would mind passing his pants, setting the tone for the comic vulnerability that fills his introspective one man show, Bottom.

Hudson examines the problematic nature of the gay community in prescribing the particular labels: top or bottom. The performer laces the set with a a mix of comic and heartfelt anecdotes about his uncomfortable experience with these labels – using this as a parallel for wider societal problems within the queer community.

Bottom is in equal parts deeply amusing and thought provoking. There’s an authentic familiarity in experiences about Hudson’s sexual encounters, his time on dating apps like Tinder, and how the concept of the top is worshipped (the ‘masc’ man that isn’t overtly gay enough to offend) and the bottom becomes a state of mind in life more so than just the labelling of a sexual position. Occasionally this approach can sometimes become too generalised – Bottom does not always make clear that the preferred position in the bedroom for some gay men is simply just that, and has no bearing on their wider life. However, this does not invalidate the strength of Hudson’s points – these will still resonate for a lot of audience members.

Hudson is a likeable presence on the stage – he delivers an undeniably serious message about internalised homophobia within the gay community and the damaging affects that the top/bottom labels have – yet he does this with wit and warmth. Hudson’s willingness to put his most intimate encounters and experiences on the stage over the course of the Fringe is a bold move, but he delivers these in a manner which is poignantly honest. There’s wider themes about forcing yourself into categories, being true to yourself and self worth here – making this a vital and necessary piece of queer theatre.

Praise should also go to the sense of fun that courses through Bottom, much of this radiating from Hudson’s own personality. Littered with Beyoncé references – including a symbolic dance number to Love on Top complete with bejewelled jacket, ukulele songs, an opening dance sequence, and the performer’s own small musings about love, life and societal expectations – Bottom is a thoroughly engaging experience throughout.

Whilst Bottom is consistently humorous, vulnerable and thought-provoking during its runtime, its real power lies in the fact that it will have you questioning these expectations and the damaging effects of the top/bottom labels that most members of the gay community experience on a daily basis. This is an excellent piece of queer theatre and Hudson is a voice that deserves to be heard.

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