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Love and all that Cr@p
The Hope Theatre
10th July 2016

★★★★☆

Oliver Retter as Ollie

Photography provided by OCD Theatre

When you wear your heart on your sleeve so openly, life can be difficult. Let's face it, putting yourself out there is an act of bravery which doesn't always guarantee the outcome you deserve. As for Ollie (Oliver Retter), he wears his heart around his neck, a chalkboard indicating where exactly we are in this fast-paced, high-energy, coming-of-age story of his. His emotions are never hard to read; a roller coaster of excitement, happiness, despair, angst and acceptance. Written and performed by Retter himself, Love and all that Cr@p follows Ollie through his formative teenage years. He may not know all the answers, but he shares with us what he's learned so far.

For several reasons, the most obvious being the name choice of the protagonist, I suspect Love and all that Cr@p is at least in part autobiographical. It's certainly told from a very believably personal perspective, with Ollie sharing all his ever-changing hopes and dreams with us. His inner monologue is raw, poetic and honest, frequently punctuated by a big jazzy musical number. Amongst others, he belts out West End favourite I Feel Pretty and B-movie cult classic Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me. Using well-known songs to convey Ollie's emotions allows us to understand what he's going through at each stage whilst still keeping the tone as light-hearted as possible.

The segue into each of Retter's song choices is always timed well. We find ourselves so busy laughing at what is essentially a dramatised version of an over-excited boy dancing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush that it takes a while for it to sink in that Retter's vocals are actually quite strong. It's easy to be distracted by Retter's confident and over-the-top dance moves, however musical director Adam Weeks for the most part does a fine job in controlling Retter's wild energy and shaping this into a surprisingly emotional performance. Apart from a few rough early notes, Retter's vocals are excellent.

Although Ollie is so upbeat he verges on irritatingly happy (oh yes, he's one of "those" people), this doesn't prevent him from making the odd throwaway acerbic remark. His comments on what isn't acceptable in a relationship are not only entertaining but make for witty call-backs. There is some poignancy towards the end, with Ollie sharing some of the more unpleasant defining moments in his life, letting us into all the bad he's lived through as well as the good. Suddenly the laughter stops and there are quite a few sniffles from the audience, who seem to be caught off-guard by the sudden shift in tone.

Love and all that Cr@p is a thoroughly joyful and camp coming-of-age story packed full of glitter, balloons and exuberance. What Retter lacks in budget he certainly makes up for with pure imagination, with a variety of interesting props chosen wisely for maximum impact. His interactions with the audience reinforce the intimacy of the piece, make good use of the thrust layout and are received well. At 50 minutes straight through, it's a relatively short whirlwind look at Ollie's life so far and a great deal of fun. We've only seen the start of Ollie's life - we hope there's more from Retter on stage to follow.

Love and all that Cr@p opened on 10th July and runs until 11th July 2016 at the Hope Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Highbury & Islington (Overground, Victoria)



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