Paul Rudnick’s Valhalla! interweaves the coming-of-age stories of notoriously eccentric 19th century monarch Ludwig II of Bavaria (Johnny McKnight) and a teenage tearaway named James Avery (Mark Prendergast) growing up in 1930s redneck Texas. While the burgeoning sexual awakening of these two boys-who-like-boys forms the backbone of the narrative, Rudnick’s play is essentially a celebration of the delights of high camp and an excuse to parody everything from Rebel Without a Cause to Anchors Away and the monumental excesses of Wagner’s operas.
In an effort to wring the maximum enjoyment out of the text director Andy Arnold has assembled a fine cast, including River City’s Joyce Falconer, James Anthony Pearson and Grant Smeaton, who tackle a plethora of comic roles and numerous costume changes with gusto. Kenny Miller’s half-finished set, meanwhile, underlines the play’s total rejection of realism.
The humour in the script is shamelessly lewd and crude, without even the filter of the double-entendre to spare our blushes, and while the scenario is for the most part genuinely laugh-out-loud funny there are moments in this production where the cast appear to be having more fun than the audience, creating a fleeting sensation of having arrived late at a party.
Still, it’s unbelievably refreshing to see unapologetic gay characters right at the top of the dramatis personae, and any initial reservations about the high concept silliness of the play are quickly swept away on a tide of gleeful laughter.
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 24 Jul