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Diva: Live From Hell | King's Head Theatre

Diva: Live From Hell is a phenomenally funny and dark musical, written by Nora Brigid Monahan and with music and lyrics by Alexander Sage-Oyen. Directed by Joe McNeice, Diva: Live From Hell is performed by the one man army, Luke Bayer

The musical begins with Desmond Channing (Bayer) introducing the audience to Hell, and recounts the events that led to his being there. Desmond, the youngest ever drama club president, feels threatened when new kid Evan Harrison joins school and jealousy bubbles within. Navigating the toxic environment of high school drama, through the eyes of an ambitious and selfish teenager, Diva: Live From Hell is one hell of a sinister yet entertaining musical. 

Bayer is a star, undertaking an entire musical by himself whilst also portraying at least four other supporting characters. Channing is an ironically likeable grey character, whose unjustifiable actions delight audiences. Yet he is winningly portrayed by Bayer, who the audiences can not help but fall in love with. Bayer is a charming performer and soars in this show and the ability to showcase his versatility as both an actor and singer. Alongside Channing, Bayer also performs as his shy and insecure best friend, his fair but firm teacher, his new popular rival and a classmate that he has a crush on. Bayer's whiplash ability to switch between characters is impressive, especially as he creates distinctive personalities.

Excellently directed by McNeice, Diva: Live From Hell harnesses this talent and has Bayer switching between four characters in under 30 seconds, and even performing a duet as two different characters. The songs are wonderfully catchy, with some clever lyrics and some of the show's most heartfelt moments. Bayer is a wonderful talent and shines, adding his own flourish to the songs. 

The set (Pip Terry) is made up of a row of lockers that slide over a mirror, with a marquee above the stage. An innovative four seater is brought on to denote cinema seats and a car, complete with headlights. The simplicity of the set, however, allows extra space for Bayer to shine, for the spotlight belong to him and him alone. 

The band (Debbi Clarke, Jonnie Grant and Ben Uden) are present on either side of the stage, with Bayer occasionally interacting (and verbally abusing) them to keep up with him. These antics are both entertaining and allow moments of pause for Bayer to quickly take a breath. Amusingly, the musical manages to remind the audience of the importance of the backstage crew through these small fun decisions. Sound effects (Ali Taie) are used sparsely, with primary focus directed to Bayer and the band. However, they are put to great use during a car crash, and create an authentic experience that places the audience in the moment.

The stage has a red tinted light (Jonathan Chan) throughout the show, a subtle reminder that Channing is recounting his life from Hell. A spotlight studiously follows Bayer, (as it rightfully should), teasingly self-aware of the premise. A scene set in the cinema allows for a fuzzy use of lighting, and it's this attention to the minute details that makes the technical elements of the musical stand out. 

Devious, dark and delightful, Diva: Live From Hell guarantees an exhilarating rollercoaster of a musical. It is currently playing at the Kings Head Theatre until 29th June - for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Danny Kaan


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