Theatre: BOOM BANG-A-BANG Bush, London

After the tawdry debacle of Eurovision (the gay musical that scored nul points in all categories) the idea of using the world's naffest of songfests as the context for another homosexual comedy might have seemed about as propitious a ploy as, ooh, building a pleasure cruiser and christening it the Titanic, or deciding to set a new soap opera in Spain.

Jonathan Harvey's Boom Bang-a-Bang at The Bush serenely soars over such superstitions. I have to admit that the news that his latest play was going to be set at a Kentish Town Eurovision Night party chez the kind of gay buffs who make a point of knowing their "Ding Dang Dong" from their "Ding-a-Dong" filled me with foreboding for a different reason. Harvey, still in his twenties, has just about the most natural ear for authentic- sounding comic dialogue of anyone of his generation. But with his two previous hits, you sometimes felt that the buckets of Scouse charm and the slightly coercive party atmosphere were failing to conceal an uncertainty about the issues raised (particularly in the attempted rape scene in Babies). Boom Bang-a-Bang sounded as though it would scarcely discourage these evasive tendencies.

Instead, it marks a marvellous leap forward in Harvey's art. It's a delight, but a delight with real bite. At one point, a charcter emerges from a long session on the loo bearing a copy of My Night With Reg. An in-jokey touch, but from the evidence of Boom Bang-a-Bang, you might suspect that Harvey also keeps a well-thumbed edition of Abigail's Party in his bathroom. Indeed, resentful, treacherous Steph (Gary Love), all officious false concern and snide confidentiality, seems to have dedicated his life to a round-the-clock impersonation of Alison Steadman's immortal Beverley from that play.

The Kentish Town party is significant for its absentees. Since their last Eurovision thrash, the lover of the host, Lee (Chris Hargreaves) has died. Of a brain tumour, not AIDS as it happens, although it seems that many of the couple's gay friends, who have decamped to an alternative party this year, think that diagnosis a hypocritical cover-up. Hence, to Steph's waspish annoyance, the undue number of straight guests at Lee's do.

No, make that 'straight' guests, for as the evening wears on, television sets blow up and conventional sexual categories are blown apart.

Director Kathy Burke and a brilliant cast do handsome justice to a play that combines farcical hilarity (such as the moment when Francis Lee's wonderful Roy drops some ecstasy and becomes disastrously indiscreet as he loses all his previous knotted anxieties), gimlet-eyed observation of gay sub-culture (watch out in the Oxford Street Top Shop), and a plot that intelligently exposes the limitations of gender stereotypes and sexual pigeon-holing - how it can make seemingly perfect sense, say, for Jane Hazlegrove's aggrieved Wendy to tell her female lover: "You're a man. You do the same sort of things men do. Fuck women up." Or for straight Nick (Karl Draper) to feel wistfully that he would be better off in a relationship with Lee than with his partner. The play rattles open compartments without making the simplistic suggestion that everybody is "really" gay. Still ridiculously young and talented, Jonathan Harvey is now becoming seriously good.

n To 19 Aug (Booking: 0181-743 2223)

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible