The perfect Christmas show
This new play by Simon Bradbury, takes us backstage, where jealousies both professional and personal are the starting cause for lost opportunities, stage fright and alcoholism. Stanley, a classical actor, is now reduced to appearing in popular murder mysteries on seaside piers. He is approached by his former lover, Shelley, now a successful director, to rekindle his career in the role of Gloucester in her production of King Lear. At the same time his former rival, Rod C Tanner, has been cast in the leading role of Lear.
Simon Bradbury’s hilarious and touching play is expertly written and has the hallmarks of a classic. It spans over a period of time, moves from dressing rooms to the expanse of the main stage, has faceted and flawed characters with plenty of conflict. It never loses its way in this full evening of entertainment (2 hours plus interval).
The set by Beth Colley, also has the advantage of fluidity, moving from our hero’s dressing room at the seaside venue, to the double dressing room at a prestigious theatre. It also transports us from backstage to the main stage looking out at the vast auditorium using just three chairs and few words in the script. How refreshing to be encouraged to use the imagination, so that this show is not set bound.
Also, a delight was the quality surround sound and an ingeniously hidden lighting box. (Where is it?) The sound effects and the music for transitions by Annie Fletcher worked perfectly. Added to this, lighting designer Miles Fisher arranged a dramatic moment of his own when the twin mirror lights unexpectedly came on in unison heralding some important moment about to ensue.
It could be said that the actors are well chosen. However, Bradbury himself plays one of the roles, because (in his own words) he “comes cheap”. Playing the role of Stanley, he is very flawed. He pompously regularly quotes Shakespeare (he is an amazing classical actor). His weakness for alcohol and his own vanity allows many comic moments. In an extremely clever reversal his confidence in himself is severely knocked to hilarious effect. Rod C Tanner played by Aran Bell, is the voice of reason, but his panicky moments are also comic. He also adds a beauty to the stage in his majestic appearance as King Lear. Completing the cast is Heide Yates as the love interest and the rock. All three want to put on a truly magnificent play and whilst Heide thinks all is going well, the two men are having kittens.
The scenes are satisfyingly long, and well-shaped, the final scene is a thorough delight. Somehow after the trials and tribulations which Stanley must face, he grows in stature. Is Yates wearing lower heels? The love match between the pair suddenly seems a possibility but will it really happen?
We are left guessing to the very end. This play within a play, shows us something about ourselves and the masks which we hide behind. Do we survive when they are pulled off?
This show is a bargain, a full evening of entertainment with full set, exemplary acting, script and expert direction from Brian Croucher, all for only £15/£12.
You can read our interview with Simon Bradbury here
CURTAIN CALL by Simon Bradbury
Presented by The illustrious theatre Company
White Bear Theatre, Kennington, November 29th – December 16th, 7.30pm
Tickets £15/£12 (concessions)
Box Office https://www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk/whats-on
Reviewer Heather Jeffery is founder and editor of London Pub Theatres magazine www.londonpubtheatre.com (email for press releases: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Formerly playwright and Artistic Director of Changing Spaces Theatre. Her credits include productions at Drayton Arms Theatre (Kensington), Old Red Lion Theatre (Islington), VAULT festival (Waterloo), St Paul’s Church (Covent Garden), Cockpit Theatre (Marylebone) and Midlands Arts Centre (Birmingham)