Review: VELVET by work.Theatre

Actor is coerced into sexual favours, desperately trying to further his career

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 14 Aug 2018
32101 large

A struggling actor is coerced into wanking online in order to secure a film audition. It turns out to be a scam. The same actor rebuffs the veiled advances of a "high profile" director and is dropped by his agent. In Velvet, Tom Ratcliffe’s looks are displayed as being his downfall, along with his desperation to succeed at any cost.

The story of Velvet is common in the current climate - the imbalance of power can be at its peak in a casting room. But while Ratcliffe’s narrative paints a clear picture, it lacks subtlety. The delivery is too fast to have any real impact, the transitions between monologues so sudden that the audience are launched between scenes without any guidance.

It’s telling that during the online messaging sessions with the mysterious LA industry hotshot, both the voiceover and the video projection of the conversation are more captivating that Ratcliffe’s performance. There’s a disconnect between the actor and his self-penned material. The emotion feels forced, the breakdowns are over-rehearsed and lack conviction.

Velvet stands tallest at its tricky conclusion. Ratcliffe insinuates that he only has himself to blame because of his sexual proclivity: “the gays just like fucking”. Where’s the shame when the scene is so open? The character even attempts to use the story to his advantage – his infamy is a USP that lands him a TV role.

But to be a stronger production, Velvet needs to focus on the problem of the normalisation of revenge porn, rather than on the horror of the individual experience.