Posts Tagged ‘Tamsin Greig’

Review – The Little Dog Laughed – Garrick

January 21, 2010

On Monday night I went to see The Little Dog Laughed at the Garrick. Little Dog is about actor Mitchell Green (Rupert Friend, well muscled but otherwise flat), who starts the evening defining himself as not gay while calling rent boys to his hotel room. His agent Diane (razor sharp Tamsin Greig) wants to keep him marketable and the truth in the closet. In this case, the truth is said Manhattan rent boy, Alex (Harry Lloyd) who’s also in denial about liking men. Only (hurray!), after a heartwarming scene about formative early sexual experiences (the “merit badge that dare not speak its name”), the guys do admit they’ve got the hots for each other, and it’s trousers down and time to get the gay on. Next problem? Alex’s girlfriend, Ellen (Gemma Arterton), and to say much more would ruin the fun.

Little Dog Laughed is a really odd show to see now, newish, in 2010 (it was written in 2005). I can accept that there still might be people in America and England that are uncomfortable with being gay, but, given how many actors are gay, it just all seemed a little hard to swallow. The whole thing would be completely intolerable if the agent weren’t a lesbian, but, since she is, her “homophobia” really reads as simply an accurate reading of what the American viewing public wants to see (an actor “women can dream of, and men can envy”). Her desire to suppress whatever truth about her “property” she needs to in order to keep him marketable is venality, ultimately, except … well … a 30 year old gay actor who is actually still not willing to admit to himself what gender he is attracted to? I couldn’t buy it. The playwright attempts to jazz the whole thing up with some really fresh dialogue, and succeeds in making a brilliant “actor and his manager negotiate with a playwright” scene, but as an overall work it felt clunky, like it had been written in college by someone destined to go into sitcoms.

I’ve got to give a nod to the costume and set designer for a beautiful palette of black, white and grey – I’m not used to having the actors match the furniture, but this worked for me. And Greig was just hot as the clawing, game-playing agent willing to step all over her client’s personal life to get herself ahead of the Hollywood game. She struggled a bit in the opening scene (the audience interaction was very clunky especially given how unresponsive we were), but went on to basically set the stage on fire for the rest of the show. Friend wasn’t really able to match her, unfortunately, but like Jessica Rabbit, I think this was more about how he was written than a bad performance. Lloyd seemed human and believable, but Arterton wasn’t able to make her character seem like anything more than filler while the set was being changed.

A little bit about the Garrick: the theater is one that I remember both fondly and with aggravation, from when I saw Zorro there; while I loved the show, I was incredibly frustrated with the blocked view of the upper two-thirds of the stage from my way-under-the-balcony seats. Fortunately there was no swinging from chandeliers or second story swordplay (or singing) to drive me batty in my row Q seats – just two little scenes in which someone stood in an open doorway which was blocked (grr!) utterly by the light clamped on to the roof above. Aaargh! Garrick, you win again! But, you know, it was kind of a potluck with the seats anyway, and, as I was asked afterward, I was entertained sufficiently to not mind. Still, this was a fairly slight night overall.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday, January 19th, 2010. The Little Dog Laughed continues booking through 10th Apr 2010. A review of the

Review – Gesthemane – National Theatre

December 2, 2008

Last night by uncle and I took advantage of the 10 pound day seats offer and were squeezed into a performance of David Hare’s new play, Gesthemane. It was quite a challenge to get these days seats, however, as there were already 8 people in line at 8:30 and then another 30 in line when the box office opened an hour later! So I feel my uncle actually worked to get these supposedly cheap tickets, but given that the show is sold out until February, it was the only way to see it at all and both of us were quite interested in checking out the latest by this playwright. (Okay, I admit, I’ve actually never seen anything by him before, but I thought that, given how prolifically he writes and how very many of his shows get produced, there was probably something there worth taking note of.)

The show was billed as being about politics and the “loss of idealism,” but it seemed to be to be a direct blast right at the Labour government that is really hitting the target now that the economy has tanked. “How long can this [incompetence/bullshit] continue?” “As long as the money does,” said two characters, and I had myself quite the laugh in this Last Action Hero – like moment of theatrical prescience. The story is something about a minister (Meredith Guest, played by Tamsin Greig) who is struggling because of the hijinks of her husband (financial) and her teenaged daughter (sexual), along with a parallel story of the party fix-it man, Otto Fallon (played by Stanley Townsend) who fundraises and manages things behind the scenes. In a bid for attention, the daughter Suzette (Jessica Raine, positively brilliant) decides to spill some dirt about Otto to the tabloids, putting her mother’s political career in jeopardy.

While this “story” is of some little interest, the play is more sharply focused on the conflicts between the various characters, many of whom provide Shavian speeches that pepper the ends of scenes. The characters argue about what they value (Minister Guest: more concerned with the party or her family?), who they trust (Prime Minister Beasley: in the pocket of his money man, or focused on his political allies?), and the sanctity of personal life versus fame (journalist Geoff Benzine – he chooses fame and notoriety). As the lights come down, they address us on topics as varied as religion (are political leaders more naturally zealots), keeping state secrets (you must trust that we as politicians are looking out for your best interests – and I do mean trust, blindly!) and proper party fare (my personal favorite – why not to serve neither chicken or salmon sandwiches, ever).

I continually felt during the speeches like I was being addressed by the playwright himself, and, though I mostly found myself agreeing with his points (as also delivered by Nicola Walker as disillusioned school teacher Lori Drysdale), the fact of the matter was that these screeds were already feeling like they were dated by the current economic collapse. They are already talking about the good old days, when the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer, but at least there were some jobs out there. To be honest, I would have preferred to have seen a play that was a bit less topical and a little more long lasting, something that would be a permanent addition to the canon rather than a flash in the pan only interesting as long as the issues it cares about are current. Suzette’s desperate angling for her mother’s attention? Timeless (and brilliantly acted to boot). Meredith’s fight for her career with her former friend, Beasley? Not as razor sharp as David Frost taking on Nixon, but a good depiction of politicians under pressure nonetheless. (This scene was rather sadly held back by Anthony Calf’s performance – he never looked to me like anything but an actor on stage pretending to be a prime minister.) But this wasn’t enough to make up for the rest of the play, which had dramatic tension but not enough drama and certainly not more than two characters that were worth paying attention to. It’s a shame, really, but maybe we’ll get lucky and next time Mr. Hare can get on with a good family feud a la August, Osage County and save the speeches for his personal appearances.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday, December 1st, 2008.)


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