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Review: Gay Witch Sex Cult (King's Head Theatre)

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Review by Harry Bower


It’s fitting that on #WorldFringeDay, I would be sat in one of London’s finest fringe venues, the King’s Head Theatre in Angel. I was there to watch the first show in their new Queer Futures season, Gay Witch Sex Cult, programmed by Artistic Director David Cummings of Operation Mincemeat fame. I first became aware of Andrew Doherty’s one-man zany whirlwind when it played earlier this year at VAULT Festival, and having joined a whole host of VAULT shows earning follow-up runs, I knew I couldn’t miss out this time around. And, boy, am I glad I didn’t.


When you arrive at a theatre entrance and are stamped on the wrist with a pentagram, you can start to guess just how different this piece of work might be. Not even your wildest imagination can prepare you for the managed chaos and imaginative genre-bending storytelling which is about to unfold in front of you. Produced by Objectively Funny, this is sixty minutes of elaborate thriller, mixed with bumbling comedy, and delivered in what could almost be described as stand-up style. Jokes fly at the audience with more velocity than my scrubbing in the shower just now trying to get this stamp off my wrist. (Yes, it’s still prevalent, and no, I’m not looking forward to being asked to explain it at work tomorrow).



The show opens with Doherty playing Kaelan Trough, ahilariously distracted pit of sassy insecurity, currently on sabbatical from his job in real estate, having supposedly been a survivor of a natural disaster. He and his husband have gathered their friends (the audience) together for a gender reveal party – though the child is yet to be born. There’s a problem, though, because hubby is yet to show up, leaving Kaelan to entertain his guests alone. Suddenly, the projection from his laptop crashes, on a file called Gay Witch Sex Cult; and we’re in. The story goes from ridiculous to absurd, so does the delivery style, as our protagonist visits an island in the English Channel on behalf of his husband, originally a real estate client looking to purchase land. Exploring the island of the cult, he uncovers secrets of child sacrifice, the prince of Hell, and lazy lesbians. If that sounds a bit odd, it’s because it is. It’s extremely weird. And extremely brilliant.


The genius of the writing is that almost every line is funny in its own unique way, either because it’s an objectively funny sentence, or because of the delivery - or the context of the story and setting. Writing Kaelan as a camp stereotype of a gay man who hates vaginas, achieves its goals of making the humour more accessible, but it’s done intelligently and with balance, avoiding overstepping the line and furthering the damaging elements of that stereotype. To use two characters from the same show as a comparison, Kaelan is like a cross between Siobhan Sharpe and David Wilkes, from BBC mockumentary W1A. He is astonishingly self-obsessed, and dismissively middle class, in a way which permits the audience to laugh both with, but also at him. There are plenty of cultural references peppered throughout, most of which I got and found to be perfectly pitched, and if a couple of jokes don’t land with as much impact as others, you quickly forget them because the very next line will restore the grin on your face. Rarely do I laugh consistently in a theatre for sixty minutes – but Gay Witch Sex Cult had me in a perpetual chuckle.



Andrew Doherty’s performance is one of outstanding precision. The throwaway lines, acute comic timing, thousand-yard stares (at audience members who laugh involuntarily at the ‘wrong’ moment), the facial expressions and eye contact, the energy; each faucet of his commitment is both amusing and believable. Authenticity is important in the piece, because it allows the audience to settle into the ridiculous world being crafted. Although we’re always aware that it’s not real, because of the consistent breaking of the fourth wall, we are all engrossed enough for the multiple jump scares to be more than effective. Have I mentioned yet that it’s also incredibly horny?


There’s a quality to the technical design which deserves a mention too; crisp metal scraping along a stone floor pairs with the horror elements perfectly, and the projection is poorly put together in the most appropriately intentional way possible. I spent a few moments considering deeper meaning in Gay Witch Sex Cult (not a sentence I ever thought I’d write). There are loose mental health threads running throughout, and I asked myself a couple of times if the show was making any meaningful commentary about gay men having children together, or about cults, or sacrifice. It’s not – or if it is, I missed it – but that is more than okay. This undeniably queer story doesn’t need anything beyond representation to make it worthy of its place in the Queer Futures lineup.



As a piece of theatre, this is a reminder that queer theatre is accessible for everyone and should be programmed based not on its queerness necessarily but its artistic quality. This show is so stupid that it's verging on cartoonish at times, and I do mean that as a compliment. I am a big fan of absurd humour and performances which find the silly and dial it up to eleven. Doherty got that brief spot on. Gay Witch Sex Cult is a masterpiece of standalone comedy storytelling and character acting which deserves to be seen by as many people as possible in its short run this summer. I am now a fully paid up member of the Gay Witch Sex Cult. As one-person fringe theatre goes, it really doesn’t get much better than this.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Gay Witch Sex Cult plays at The King’s Head Theatre until Saturday 15 July 2023. For more information and tickets visit: https://kingsheadtheatre.com/whats-on/gay-witch-sex-cult


To find out more about David Cummings’ Queer Futures Season, visit: https://kingsheadtheatre.com/news-blog/david-cumming-announces-queer-futures-season

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