Review: Closer To Heaven 

Written by on July 1, 2024

Pic: Mark Senior

Review: Closer To Heaven


The Turbine Theatre: June 2023 by Jamie Griffiths

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the chance to see Closer to Heaven since its original production at the Arts Theatre in 2001. The Pet Shop Boys and Jonathan Harvey have created a masterpiece that evokes 90s club culture in a way that perhaps wasn’t fully possible back in 2001. Ever since that original production, I haven’t stopped listening to the soundtrack, and seeing it live again was a dream come true.

Frances Ruffelle’s casting as Billie Trix was both surprising and refreshing. Known for her iconic performances, Ruffelle takes on a role unlike any I’ve seen her in before. She fully embraces Trix’s out-of-control, hedonistic lifestyle, capturing her fragility and insecurities. Her rendition of “Friendly Fire” is just as haunting as Frances Barber’s, if not more so.

Pic: Mark Senior

Glenn Adamson as “Straight Dave” was a revelation. Best known for his exceptional vocals in rock musicals, he added great depth and appeal to the character. His moments of vocal prowess were a joy to watch. One of the strengths of this production is that every cast member had a moment to shine. The chemistry between Straight Dave, troubled drug dealer Lee, and Dave’s girlfriend Shell Christian was palpable, thanks to the impressive talents of Connor Carson and Courtney Bowman. Both delivered incredible show-stopping moments, and I found myself eagerly anticipating Courtney’s showstopping monologues.

Pic: Mark Senior

Kurt Kansley delivered a standout performance as club owner Vic, who battles drug addiction and the complex dynamics of being Courtney’s estranged father and also gay. His performance of “Vampires” was particularly impactful, with the staging and choreography of this scene creating a compelling tableau of sex, betrayal, and devastation.

Pic: Mark Senior

There are some great moments of comic relief from David Muscat’s loathsome and narcissistic band manager Bob Saunders, ably assisted by Lewis James as Flynn. It’s camp and over the top, but there’s an authenticity about Bob’s character that elevates him beyond a mere pantomime villain. You find yourself understanding why people choose to sleep with him for a step up the ladder, and why such decisions are always filled with regret.

This musical truly excels in its innovative choreography and staging. The club setting is convincing, with volume levels raised to the point that no vocals are discernible during club scenes—an intentional and authentic touch. Simon Hardwick has directed a production that’s nothing short of a visual and musical triumph. The descent into the “K Hole,” with chaotic visuals mixing projections and lasers, is a breathtakingly convincing scene of nightmarish proportions. This production took my breath away many times.

The Turbine Theatre once again proves to be a brilliant space for quality creative theatre. This is a theatre that cares passionately about the productions it chooses to put on, and the staging is always innovative. The intimate setting allows for a unique and immersive experience, making each performance feel personal and impactful.

I imagine this staging is much closer to the original vision of the Pet Shop Boys and Jonathan Harvey. I’m thrilled to have seen it. Closer to Heaven is a true work of art, one I could see every week and never tire of. I hope and pray for a new cast recording to play on Matinee Radio.

Closer to Heaven is now at the Turbine Theatre until 27 July – for information and tickets, visit the official site HERE.


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