REVIEW: ‘Sauna Boy’ @ Stage Door Theatre

Brian Butler June 12, 2024

Dan Ireland-Reeves pulls back the curtain on the non-stop activities of a south coast gay sauna in his semi-autobiographical monodrama Sauna Boy, and there are some explicit revelations.

While not shocking to regular sauna-goers, this is not your average kiss-and-tell drama. Dan has an energetic and absorbing approach to his subject-matter.

Much of it is too explicit to detail here, but suffice to say that we are not left too much to our imaginations to conjure up the clientele’s proclivities.

And if that sounds a teensy bit salacious, it’s not, because Dan, who also wrote the show, fills the stage with a wide variety of highly recognisable gay characters, delineating each with the sweep of a hand, a facial gesture and a distinctive accent.

His characters are mesmerising, funny, sad, dangerous but never boring or to be pitied. 

From Marco the Venezuelan masseur to ‘mother’, the world-weary owner, or the conflicted young love interest Chase, who wants to enlist in the military, all queer human life is here and it’s fascinating.

Dan – or Danny Boy as he quickly becomes known – charts his year at the sauna, which includes a memorable 21st birthday party for the establishment that ends in turmoil and the meltdown of ‘mother’.

Ultimately the cameraderie, feeling of family and self-protection and respect of the punters are what holds the establishment and their lives together, and Dan helps us to rejoice in that.

As with his previous monodrama Bleach, Dan holds us in the palm of his hand, shocking us, making us laugh, but never patronising us.

His onstage agility, quick-changes between characters and confident honesty makes this a terrific performance not to be missed if it comes your way.  

As he tells us: “the sauna is nestled away in the shadows of society – it’s both surreal and exhilarating – there’s a million different stories and mine is just one of them.” 

Sauna Boy was at the Stage Door Theatre, Drury Lane, London.