Wales Millennium Centre’s Performances for the Curious promises a season of compelling work filled with comedy, cabaret and music. Neontopia’s Tuck is a part of this season which delivers on all three aspects. A bilingual show set against the glitzy backdrop of Cardiff’s drag scene, Tuck is a play which discusses mental health, but grounds itself with humour.

Tuck takes place in the Centre’s cabaret bar Ffresh, a perfect setting for the performances and scenes which unfold in the drag club.  Stifyn Parri, who has over 35 years’ experience in the creative industries takes on the role of Patrick ‘Patsy Thatcher’, a performer whose dry sense of humour masks the depression she’s facing. Parri’s performance is a blend of hilarious and heartbreaking. Iestyn Arwel, who starred in BAFTA Cymru Best Short Film The List, plays Steve ‘Martha Titful’. While the play centres around Patsy it is Martha, Patsy’s stage partner and close friend, who guides us through their journey.

Gareth Evans’ Teifion ‘Lola Bipolar’ and Lewis Brown’s Antoine ‘Medusa Massid’ support these characters and offer comic relief as young drag queens with their own interesting stories of self-discovery. Playwright Alun Saunders delivers clever, witty jokes, angry scenes which perfectly capture grief and a realistic portrayal of mental illness. He spent more than three years writing Tuck and the finished play more than shows this commitment. Lighting from Ace McCarron and sound from Sam Jones deliver emotional scenes, complimented by direction from Jess Williams and Mared Siwan.

Tuck’s bilingualism is crucial to the audience’s understanding of the story which is not to say that you must speak both languages to understand it. Antoine is not a Welsh speaker and provides jokes about not following the story, which clarify anything that might have slipped past learners or non-Welsh speakers. It’s accessible to everyone, with Welsh firmly setting the scene in Wales’ capital and making some scenes more personal. Before the play, Saunders explained to the audience that Tuck’s bilingualism reflects a focus on speaking, siarad. Characters speak how they feel, whether a Welsh word or an English word better fits what they’re trying to say.

Saunders also said he was grateful to have had the opportunity to bring this play to the stage in the city where it belongs. He added that Wales Millennium Centre is not only a place to see big name stage shows, but a hub for diverse creativity and a place to tell stories which are longing to be told.

October saw Cardiff become the LGBT+ film capital of the world as the Iris Prize Festival celebrated diversity and creativity in the city, which acts as ‘a beacon for diversity’. As Performances for the Curious continues it will represent diverse voices in Cardiff, from Bullish (20-24 November) which explores trans-masculine identity, to Behind The Label (13-14 December) which gives a voice to those who have been labelled by society due to battles with mental health, trauma, addiction or homelessness. Tuck's proud portrayal of Cardiff's drag scene is a perfect example of the city's diverse theatre scene which strives to amplify underrepresented voices.

Tuck runs until November 3 at Wales Millennium Centre’s Ffresh Cabaret Bar. Tickets are available here.

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