Sex, Soul and Sin

Article excerpt

Byline: HENRY HITCHINGS

GENRE

BEEN SO LONG Young Vic, SE1

I'M A sucker for funk -- you have to be careful when you say those words -- and Been So Long, Arthur Darvill and Che Walker's musical reworking of the latter's 1998 play, positively bristles with sassy riffs and layered rhythms.

Set in a failing London bar called Arizona, Been So Long is about the collision of sex, affection, vengeance and dreams. First we see lovelorn barman Barney; then sportswear-clad Gil, who wants to get his own back on Raymond, the playboy who stole his girl; then Simone and Yvonne, young women intent on having a good time and on telling the world all about it; and finally Raymond himself, a study in taut muscle and plagiarised chat-up lines. The five of them become embroiled in a circus of misunderstanding, profane fantasy, vicious cusses and reconciliation.

The story is paper-thin, and the acting a little uneven but the vocal performances make the production fly. Harry Hepple's Gil looks for all the world like Mike Skinner's The Streets, and talks like him, too, but when he sings it's in a sweet tenor.

Nu-soul legend Omar brings his familiar jazz-tinged sound to Barney (and is dismayingly underused), while Cat Simmons is sexily vulnerable, and Arinze Kene endows the less fully developed role of Raymond with gravity. …