Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Winner of the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2022, Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz follows Nathaniel, a young man approaching what appears to be his quarter life crisis. Join Nathaniel on his journey of self-discovery as he explores Black masculinity through Beyonce lyrics, techno raves and the deeply intimate relationship a man has with his barber.
In Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz, Nathan Queely-Dennis, the writer and actor of this endearing one-man show, plays Nathaniel, a Birmingham call-center worker who is looking for love and finding the search a challenge. Clearly a romantic, Nathaniel immediately lets the audience know that he is confident about what he has to offer but also confused by how badly that part of his life has been going: “So maybe what my mom is tryna say is I’m not shit at dating just everyone I meet is shit at dating me.”
From the play’s start the ever-engaging Queely-Dennis charms the audience and never lets go. Nathaniel may be frustrated with his love and work life (he studied Fine Art), but his exuberant sweetness makes him a character to root for, a man who deserves to succeed on his mission. “I’m not picky either I just want someone like me, a nice personality, a good sense of humour and nice elbows.”
The script occasionally digresses for detours that don’t necessarily pay off at the end, but whether Nathaniel is talking about his undying love for his barber, his take on strawberries, or the top three people he wouldn’t want to be stuck in a conversation with, the voice is distinctive, the language fully alive. And in addition to Nathaniel, Queely-Dennis gives voice to the other lively members of his group chat, his Jamaican father, his co-worker (and prospective girlfriend) Kelly and, in one of the show’s highlights, Robin, his best work buddy, whose responses are all in the style of Beyoncé.
This story may not break new ground, but it’s in the telling that treasures abound. Nathaniel’s challenges are instantly relatable to any former and present twentysomething who’s ever been on dates in search of a life partner. For though the technology and methodology of dating may constantly be in flux, the feelings of hopefulness, confusion, elation and sadness that come with courtship remain stubbornly consistent, evidenced by the audible audience responses to Nathaniel’s dating misadventures. Everyone sitting in the circular Roundabout tent recognizes these pains, and Queely-Dennis and director Dermot Daly uses those experienced agonies and this specific venue to great theatrical advantage. We see ourselves in Nathaniel, and, facing each other, we see that in each other as well.