Exploring, By George Maddocks

tumblr_m7xp9xfsbj1rc9j0do1_1280

Its 12.38 on 29th July in Kilburn. We are thirty six hours into the recording of our very first on-location play ‘Rat’.

Not content with breaking new ground by recording on location we’ve also decided to make a film of the process.

We have set ourselves a deadline of 48hrs to deliver both film and play.

Exciting times but necessarily fraught times as well and I think that everyone in the team is quietly happy that we’ve been forced into taking a break by a burst of rain and depleted batteries.

I’m sat in a crowded living room that looks like a overdone advert for mac computers and coca cola. Dotted in and around these digital artists’ essentials are piles of audio equipment, boom mics, field recorders, tripods cameras and LED lights.

There are two blogposts being written and a film and radio play being edited in this room, in the kitchen photos are being lifted from yesterday’s video footage and Annie the writer is on the phone contacting a friend about recording a soundtrack.

We are all still a little tense, things have gone well but in the manner of many projects the quality and success of the initial aspects of it simply passes pressure on the later aspects. So, having recorded some beautiful performances yesterday we are now all feeling the pressure to do justice to them in the edit.

Simultaneously directing and producing something like this is a bizarre mix of elation and fear.  Every shot that is captured right is a success, every bit of kit that we brought that solves a problem gives the ego a bounce but still there is always the thought sitting at the back of your head that all the kit and schedules in the world can’t deliver the performances you want.

Doing that requires something else. Its about the atmosphere in the room the people your working with and the way you use both.

I’ve directed many times, so I should be more comfortable with that, but this time I have a camera on me as well, racking up the pressure, recording my tortured analogies and (I strongly suspect) making me look distinctly chubby.

The batteries are flashing as charged now, and the rain is holding off so it is time to get back at it. Reading this back it sounds more tortuous than I had intended. In all honesty this is joyous working with a team of hard-working, dedicated artists who are all committed to doing something exceptional. It half brings to mind a quote from Samuel Butler (so I Googled it) -

‘Exploring is delightful to look forward to and back upon, but it is not comfortable at the time, unless it be of such an easy nature as not to deserve the name.’

Quite. I very much hope you enjoy the play.

The Making of “RAT” by Ann Theato

RAT by Ann Théato

A radio play

48 hours

8 people

It’s a race …

- against time

- against the elements

- against getting to the pastries before the Director

The events which led to the writing of Rat occurred in 2003. I was moved – in a truly horrible way – I came straight in and wrote the story in half an hour.

The story was written from strong emotions. When something really, really moves me, I have to somehow capture it. Like an artist who is compelled to paint. Or a photographer who captures the horror or beauty of an occasion. Perhaps that’s what Rat was. Horror and beauty all at the same time.

Radio is an ideal medium with which to tell Rat’s story. Walter Pater once said, “All art constantly aspires to the condition of music”. Telling the story in radio play format, forces you to feel, to see with the mind’s eye and to climb inside the head of the narrator and feel what she feels.

Yesterday, we recorded the whole thing, luckily in gorgeous sunshine. Right now, we are halfway through the afternoon of Day Two. We’ve set ourselves a 48-hour deadline in which to record, edit & upload this play and just to add a little spice – we’re also filming the entire process, which necessitates us also editing together a “making of” documentary film. Exciting times here at Wireless!

It is 5pm and right now, George Maddocks, Director and Erica Basnicki our amazing Sound Engineer, are sitting in the front room together going through the takes and discussing which ones to use. I’m in here as well, writing this blog. Steve Spence is sitting at the kitchen table, going through film footage to get screen grabs and photographs to upload onto Tumblr and he’s also putting together a trailer for YouTube. Polly Haynes, Musician, has composed a fabulous music track, which is currently sitting in my in-box waiting for George’s attention and Nick Maddocks, (yes, he’s George’s brother), the Director’s Assistant, who has been brilliant, is now suffering with a heavy head cold, poor chap. He is currently sniffing his way up Cricklewood Broadway in search of some medication and we are all eagerly awaiting the arrival of Brendan Carr, Videographer and Film Editor, so we can watch his rough take footage. He’s been up ALL night editing and only got a 3 hour nap.

Rat will be available for download later on tonight. Stay tuned. We’d love to hear your comments.

Check out the full set of photos, videos and further blogs at: http://wirelesstheatresrat.tumblr.com/

Is this the best sound ever?

Writer and Actress Susan Casanove On Working with her Hero, Stephen Fry

small_fry

June 11th, 2012

It’s Monday, and I’m just drawing breath after the busiest, most emotional and the most exhilarating week of my life.  “Never meet your heroes” they say.  Well I met mine last Wednesday and I’m still walking on air.  Stephen Fry is the reason I began writing again, he’s an inspiration in so many ways, a national treasure and I can now knowledgably add that he’s also a perfect gent.

I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer.  As a child I constantly wrote stories, mostly about a young girl who is sent to bed without any supper and then transported to a strange fantastical world.  But a chance remark from a schoolteacher when I was ten (“You’ll never be a writer, Susie, you can’t spell”) cut me to the quick, and consequently I didn’t write another thing for 20 years.  In 2005 however, by which time I had trained and was working as an actress, somebody bought me The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry for Christmas, ‘a witty and entertaining guide to the mysteries of writing poetry’.  I worked through all the exercises as advised and, perhaps most significantly, I took his advice to carry a notebook with me at all times and just ‘doodle with words’; on train journeys, while waiting in cafes, and during my occasional ‘resting’ periods as an actress, this practice has actually become a sort-of therapy for me.  And while poetry and scriptwriting are not exactly the same discipline, the seeds were definitely sown during that time for the moment a few years later when I finally put pen to paper and wrote my first radio play.

Leaves in Autumn was released by the Wireless Theatre Company in 2009 starring Josephine Tewson and Hazel Douglas.  Two more of my radio scripts were subsequently produced by Wireless: Angels in the Dark starring Kim Durham (Matt Crawford in The Archers) and We are not the BBC in which I eventually had the courage to suggest myself for the lead role alongside a very talented cast which included Christopher Timothy in a cameo role playing himself.  The storyline immediately suggested that it could be the first in a series of three, and back in summer 2011, I told director Jack Bowman that there was only one person I wanted to be our celebrity guest in the sequel, and that was Stephen Fry.  Nervously, I wrote a part for Stephen in We are the BBC, the producer, Mariele dispatched it to agent, and some months later came the reply that brought tears of joy to my eyes: Stephen liked the script very much and was happy to record on June 6th.

Then came the cluster effect: I was cast as Beatrice in a UK tour of Much Ado About Nothing – opening on June 5th!  The director, Maddy Kerr agreed to let me travel from Stratford-upon-Avon to London on the morning of 6th June to record my scenes with Stephen, provided I could assure her I’d be back in time for the second night performance of Much Ado.  So having had no more than four hours sleep on the two previous nights following very long and tiring days rehearsing and performing, my three alarms went off at 4:55am on Wednesday and I headed for London.

Stephen was better than magnificent.  A consummate professional, he even managed not to laugh at me when I produced the signed photo he’d sent ‘To Susan’ back in 1992 in response to my teenage fan letter, which I’ve treasured ever since.  As I stood in that studio in Marylebone hearing Stephen speak lines of dialogue that I’d written, I genuinely felt my heart swell with pride.  He performed the three scenes I’d written for him even more brilliantly than I’d imagined he would, and, at our behest, even added in the odd little gem of an ad lib.  My whole reason for wanting to write scripts that make people laugh stems from my ongoing love affair with British comedy which began in the 1980s with such shows as A Bit of Fry and Laurie.  So to have Stephen himself endorse my own comedy script in such an encouraging and positive way is a dream come true.

Writing has a lot to do with confidence.  Knowing that one of my all time comedy heroes likes my work has given me the biggest confidence boost I could possibly wish for.  So thank you Stephen, I plan to carry on writing – when I have time that is, for now it’s straight back to the Much Ado tour.

Susan is touring the UK as ‘Beatrice’ in Much Ado About Nothing until September 2nd, 2012, tour dates at www.heartbreakproductions.co.uk  We are the BBC starring Susan Casanove and Stephen Fry will be available to download from the Wireless Theatre Company later in the summer.

People. They’ll Watch Anything, By Stuart Price

Paul Rhys in The Master and Margarita

People. They’ll watch anything.

We saw the countless crowds last weekend stood in the rain for hours patiently waiting for the chance to see The Queen and the rest of the Royal Family. They came in droves just for a quick glimpse.

That’s not because they are dumb. Or sheep. Or fawning royalists. Or morons. It’s because people are good. People are great. They are awesome and inspiring and love nothing more than being entertained in whatever format they see fit. Like late Zoologist Desmond Morris observed – for every random isolated violent act committed by person on person there are thousands upon thousands of silent kindnesses taking place second by second between human beings. I love being entertained especially in the theatre, and it’s been a month since I had the privelidge of seeing Complicite’s‘The Master and  Margarita’ at the Barbican. I won’t go in to how stupidly mind blowing it was. But it was. It was utterly compelling yes, but best of all it was so different. So modern. It felt like watching the future. I felt the same when I saw ‘Pulp Fiction’ – like a subtle but enormous change had taken place somehow.

So why was I surprised when I came across an article from a few years back featuring a certain hugely successful composer and owner of many West End theatres, stating that “I’ve decided it’s un-doable. It’s just too difficult for an audience to contemplate. It’s a very complicated novel.”

The gentleman in question was Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber referring to his attempt to stage Mikhail Bulgakov’s‘The Master and Margarita’.

Now, let’s not bash him too hard, even if he does use the publicly funded BBC as his very own Marketing and PR department so that he may tell us which antique he plans to dust off prior to taking his gold plated dumper truck to Coutts. And it should come as little surprise to anyone that he views theatregoers as slightly diminished. And he is hugely loved by many, lets not forget. But surely once you have the opportunity to exploit your huge demand, you should use that opportunity to maximise talent rather than revenue? Exploit artistic ideas rather than ageing rock bands back catalogues? I love a good hen do, but can’t they go to Mykonos instead of the Duchess? Goodness knows Greece could use the business. And let’s not pretend that without recycling musicals the West End would die.

People. They’ll watch anything.

It’s time writers and creators gave them everything. Threw the kitchen sink at our craft and took enormous risks in the name of Theatre. That’s the key to not surviving but thriving.

I’m off to ride my bike 900 miles to the Festival D’Avignon to see ‘Margarita’ again. That’s the effect theatre should have on you. 

Audio Script Formatting

We are lucky enough to recieve a very high number of script submissions. We don’t have a large reading team, so scripts which are set out with correct audio formatting will be read first.

Example of Audio Formatting

Submissions electronically to scripts@wirelesstheatrecompany.co.uk

Please include full contact details AND a short synopsis of the play as well.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

one-flew

In an age where our TV stations make us choose the same pop star year after year, our magazines tell us to look and dress a certain way and where we’re allowed to be individual, just as long as it’s the same as everyone else, a story of controlling regimes churning out homogenised human beings is as relevant today as it was in the 1960s when the novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was written.

An institution that has the right to issue shock therapy or lobotomies as both therapy and punishment is a powerful setting for an allegory of individuality against the system. Here we meet the inmates like Bradly Rhys Williams’ Harding that fall short of society’s expectations have submitted themselves willingly to ‘correction’ while others like Dwayne Washington’s native American Chief Bromden are being crushed forcefully into compliance.

But when the iconoclastic Randle P McMurphy (Sean Buchanan) enters the fray that system starts to buckle as he teaches the patients to discover their own strengths beyond the narrow framework set by the domineering Nurse Rached (Annabel Capper) and her hoard of orderlies. Whether he is acting out of altruism, greed or his own brand of exploitation, we never quite know for sure.

Now let me confess right here and now- I have never seen the film nor read the book. So shoot me. It does however allow me to judge this play on its own merits.

And it has merits aplenty including one of the best ensemble casts I’ve seen in a long time with everyone pulling in the same direction and not one of them pulling focus. This confident and effective kind of performance allows the audience to spot each actor individually, not least in the first patient group meeting where each character is on show and you instantly see their individual quirks, ticks and neuroses. It’s a credit to each actor that a lot of homework has been done here and it’s very gratifying to see, particularly Bobby Bulloch as the lobotomised Ruckly who stumbles and dribbles his way through the show barely uttering a single word.

Buchanan as the lead role oozes charisma but doesn’t steal the show, generous and confident enough to not overshadow his fellow cast members. Even for a cultural ignoramus such as myself, it’s hard not to compare him to Jack Nicholson and whether consciously or not there are twinkles of Big Jack whenever Mr Buchanan talks through his gritted smile. He manages to be more likeable however than dangerous and even though we’re constantly reminded of his potential violence, it’s shocking when it does actually come to the fore before being swiftly curtailed.

More than adequately playing his nemesis Nurse Ratched is the wonderful Annabel Capper, all seething self control and steely composure, channelling Kathryn Hepburn and Kathleen Turner in equal measure. Quite how this prim and proper nurse can still ooze a burning sexuality is down to the skill of this fabulous actress. She and Buchanan spark off each other perfectly, creating a battle of titans where she has all the power and certainly deals the final blow but we are left in no doubt that she is scarred and wounded by the conflict.

McMurphy’s shocking fate notwithstanding, the play ends on an upbeat hopeful note that maybe you can beat the system after all.

Paul Taylor Mills’ direction is crisp and precise, with not a single beat missed and use of projection that thankfully isn’t gimmicky or intrusive and in fact adds to the story telling with some wonderfully evocative animation.

David Shields has done an amazing job on the staging, recreating a very credible hospital setting with far more detailing that one would expect outside of the National Theatre and no doubt with a far smaller budget. This could have been lifted from a film set. Only the fading edges melting into a dark sky of origami paper birds remind us that this place is just fantasy.

The birds incidentally match the ones flying across our programs and fliers. This is one coherent production from start to finish. Apart from a couple of dips in the American accents here and there Paul Taylor Mills and Amy Anzell have created something very slick and polished.

Whether this production has managed to distinguish itself and do something original beyond the iconic movie is up to other audience members to decide. For this viewer, it was highly professional, utterly relevant and a pleasure to experience.

ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST by Dale Wasserman

LOST THEATRE

7.30pm until 31st March

http://www.losttheatre.co.uk/whatson/whatson

What Makes a Good WTC Script? By Fran Kirkham

script

I had a call from a very pleasant gentleman this week regarding script submission, which got me to thinking (in a very late 90s sex and the city style way) about writing, and more specifically, reading potential audio plays. Now, this person may wish to remain nameless (I haven’t asked him) so let’s just call him Man. Man was asking the same types of questions we get a lot from writers looking to work with us – what do we look for in a script, do I have any tips on how to make it stand out, do we only read the first ten pages, are there any big no-nos which he should avoid?  – so I thought it might be a nice idea to immortalise this in the electronic ether and write some general points about scripts for the Wireless Theatre Company.

Now you are probably thinking this seems rather redundant, as the art of writing and the process of reading are so subjective that there can surely be no overarching notion of what constitutes a ‘good’ script. Well if you’re thinking that, you’re wrong. Taste of course, is subjective. I for one am willing to admit that I do not like Hamlet. At all.A terrible thing for a theatrically inclined individual (with a degree in English literature no less!) to admit. I do, on the other hand, think that Titus Andronicus is great and much underrated and underproduced. These are opinions and I recognise them as such, but that’s not to suggest I wouldn’t include Hamlet in the category of a ‘good’ script. Whether or not a play suits my personal taste is beside the point, there are certain ground rules we can establish concerning the types of play I would put forward to my WTC colleagues as a possible yes.

  1. First, and I’m a little embarrassed on your part if you don’t know this, but think about the blooming format. We are an AUDIO theatre company. We produce AUDIO plays. If you haven’t bothered to format your script for audio theatre then we certainly aren’t going to consider it.  So if the first page of your script is a beautifully crafted set of stage directions detailing the scenery, the set, the way the curtain is to be drawn, then it’s going in the bin, and the rest of your play is going with it. We don’t have time to repurpose your writing for our audience, that’s your job. We can send you an ‘ideal’ example of how to format a script, just follow that. Sorry to be strict but it’s along the same lines as sending out CVs. If you send our your CV and cover letter to 20 companies and send the exact same thing every time, you’re most likely going to get 20 big fat nos. So that’s the first bit of advice – tailor the script to the format or you’re going to get nowhere. For the record, the Wireless Theatre Company does not accept bribes. Unless they’re really substantial. Send me an email and we can talk…
  2. Next, and this also goes with the audio theme, think about what is suitable for radio drama. Not just in terms of plot and themes (i.e. car chases don’t work quite so well in audio form and sex scenes can be pretty cringey to listen to) but also the smaller details. If you have a lot of characters, it can get confusing to remember who is talking, especially if some of the actors have similar tone or pitch of their voices. So write in a way that suits the style, make it clear who is speaking, and yes it’s ok to have characters say ‘thanks BOB’ and ‘hi SUSAN’ every so often, even if you think it’s a bit obvious. It does help, and will keep your audience engaged with the story. FYI Bob and Susan are in no way affiliated with the Wireless Theatre Company.
  3. Think about the practicalities. Sad to say, but we are a small company working with miniscule budgets and so there will sometimes be limits to things we can do. We probably can’t pay the royalties to play Thriller in the background of your nightclub scene, so don’t make It a pivotal part of the plot where it’s the key clue in determining who the murderer was. It’s not impossible to produce plays with a huge ensemble cast of 30 actors, but it’s certainly tricky so think about how necessary the Postman, Waitress, Girl in Park, etc are and if the roles can be easily doubled up. If they can, then say it on your characters page – get us thinking about how we can make your play happen.
  4. One of the most frequent questions I get asked is whether we only read the first 10 pages. Now, this is a difficult one, because there are a number of us who read the scripts and we all work differently. Usually, more than one person will read a script so you can be pretty confident that it’ll get a fair trial. Admittedly, there will be occasions where a play that doesn’t grab you doesn’t get finished. That’s life. We’re busy and very important people and we need it to have some kind of spark that makes us read on. BUT that does not mean that your first ten pages need to be laced with spectacular events or over the top intrigue. I read a lot of novels and plays and most of them don’t have a major incident, murder, hilarious farce or dramatic conclusion in the first few chapters, but I still persevere. Getting our interest is not about packing the action into the first ten pages. More often than not, it’s about the quality of the writing, the sharpness of the dialogue and whether we think the play is going somewhere that interests us. If your play is well-written and the plot begins to show signs of developing in the first ten pages, we will most likely keep going. Of course, if you have ten pages of small talk between the two central characters discussing the weather and the traffic, you might want to reconsider, unless you’re uber-confident in the power of your Pinter-esque subtext. A little extra helping hand can be including a synopsis in your cover note. And I mean a proper synopsis not just ‘this is a dark tale of passion and deception between two emotionally imbalanced plumbers.’ Actually tell us the plot and give us a reason to get to the end. It’s not going to spoil it for us, I promise.
  5. Be obvious. It will help us to get a feel for the kind of production we’re looking at if the tone of your play is clear. Most of our plays are under an hour and that’s not really long enough to cram too many different styles/formats/emotions. We’re probably not recreating Ulysses here. Although maybe we should. I reckon that would totally work in audio form. If your play is a comedy, it does sort of need to be funny, if it’s a drama, we need a dramatic hook, etc etc. We do have to get through a lot of scripts in a relatively short amount of time so you can’t afford to be so subtle that we miss it. You don’t have to categorise it to death, but if you’re not clear what type of play you’re writing, how are we supposed to know?
  6. For pity’s sake, don’t be obvious. This isn’t My Family, there doesn’t have to be a slapstick joke every two lines followed by inane canned laughter. We do appreciate that subtlety can be very effective and not every script falls neatly into a pre-formed category tied up in a little bow. Push the boundaries. If you think it’s too out there or too kooky, send it to us. If there’s things we think need changing, we’ll be honest, but originality is the best way to stand out and again, being original doesn’t mean it has to be set on a sunken oil rig in the atlantic ocean or concern the story of three folk-dancing lepers. You can be original in your characterisation, your dialogue, the way you drive the plot forward, how your characters interact, it’s not all about plot.

I love reading scripts for WTC and I think we have produced some absolute crackers in our time. We want to encourage new writers and we don’t care how many scripts you’ve written before, if it’s good, we’ll do it, if it’s shit, we’ll lie and pretend we’re too busy. That’s a joke. We’ll probably give you some constructive feedback, because that’s what people ask for, even if they then scream at you in shouty capital letter emails about your lack of taste and how you will definitely regret this decision when they’re a super-famous Oscar-winning writer. Yeh, how’s that going? Still waiting for that big break huh?

So keep sending them through, and I hope this helps to answer some of the more basic questions about how our script-reading process works. To sum up – write good and we will read it good.

Exposure, Review by Philip Lawrence

draft-exposure

The cult of celebrity, fame for the sake of fame and manipulation by the media is something that has been dealt with a lot by TV and theatre lately so it was with some excitement that I went to the Lost Theatre to see what new angle Patrick Wilde’s new play Exposure could bring to the mix.

For the first few minutes, a back and forth about a footballer in a sex scandal we are quickly introduced to newspaper mogul Scott (Luke Stevenson as a sleazy James May) and PR supremo Rebecca (Georgina Morrell, all power dressing and pouting) So far so cliché.

But we soon get to the ordinary people of Danny and Sal, a young couple forced by economics to still live in a student-like flat share whilst dreaming of a better life and it’s here that the play takes off.

Thus begins an exploration of fame and the power of the media as Rebecca and Scott make a bet: that with just the magic of PR Rebecca can make anyone famous. And Danny with his dreams of being a comedy writer has just enough stars in his eyes to be her perfect victim.

Charlie Cussons plays the likeable but flawed Danny with an awkward charm while Robyn Hoedemaker is instantly likeable as the down to earth Sal, both of them unwitting victims as Danny is sold a dream and a poisoned chalice in one go, becoming a commodity to be bought and sold with no regard for the effect on his real personal life. Or regard for any talent, as he’s mis-sold as a ‘personality’ rather than for his writing, which is completely ignored.

Rounding out the cast and providing other perspectives are Yoko (played by Lisa Berry) a young hippy that doesn’t buy into the celeb thing and Ravi (George Lester) a young overly gay guy who definitely does. Here Wilde cleverly plays with our expectations and assumptions as the final betrayal, pleasingly comes from an unexpected source.

I say final. For Wilde loads a gun early in the piece that delivers a powerful end tableux.

Overlaying Danny’s struggle with fame, is the bet between Scott and Rebecca, a pact between two devils. But unfortunately there’s no real sense of what’s at stake for either of them. When the two actors have scenes together their dialogue is heightened and guarded. A definite acting choice one supposes but it creates a barrier that stops us understanding the humanity of the characters and thus feeling anything for them.

A shame since Georgina Morrell as Rebecca underpins the entire production and with a glimmer of humanity beneath the façade, she has the potential to win our hearts and tread all over them at once.

Director Oliver Jack’s staging is imaginative with stark white furniture and bare walls. A blank canvas onto which he projects images various celebs throughout. This back projection is inventively used several times during the production, showing us newspaper headlines, paparazzi shots of the characters and a touching photo album of Sal and Danny in less complicated times. It’s a relatively simple device that adds to what’s on stage, making the whole thing feel more televisual and accessible to a twitter age where all our information comes from a screen.

Some of the scene changes with their complex moving of blocks and chairs were a little over long and laboured but maybe with time these would become more slick and speedy.

The script is sharp and witty with plenty of one liners, but some of the cast may have been a little young to realistically deliver what was required. With more experienced hands in certain roles, there might be more balance in the story telling about whether our current media is a good or bad thing and still allow the script to have its voice.

That aside and whatever one’s own opinion of the ‘cult of celebrity’, Exposure is at its heart a very pleasing character piece that has a highly engaging story to tell.

 

EXPOSURE by Patrick Wilde

Lost Theatre 14th-18th Feb

Tickets £10

Sleeping With Straight Men, a review by Philip Lawrence

b3cf935494543727eab0481820145136

Today, a review by Philip Lawrence….

Sleeping With Straight Men by Ronnie Larsen

The relationship between gay and straight men can be a complex one. There is a undeniably a section of the gay community for whom seducing a hot straight guy is something of a fantasy, while there are some straight men for whom such attention would be deemed a threat to their manhood. By the same token there are many hetero fellas who would be willing to secretly dabble if the offer came along. And which of us when faced with a flattering advance from someone even of an opposite sexual persuasion wouldn’t be tempted?

It’s an area that’s ripe for theatrical exploration, something attempted by Ronnie Larsen’s Sleeping With Straight Men at The Above The Stag Theatre with varying degrees of success.

Larsen’s play takes its inspiration from a real life event where a young gay guy confessed his undying love for a straight man on a national TV talk show with fatal results, but doesn’t really go much beyond that to adequately explore the characters or the consequences.

Having said that, the cast without exception work well with what they have. We are quickly introduced to Stanley, an optimistic trailer park gay boy with big city dreams- played by Wesley Dow with all the bounding energy of a loveable Avenue Q puppet – and the local waiter and object of Stanley’s misguided affection Lee played by a suitably hunky Adam Isdale.

Amy Anzel is deliciously juicy as the dispassionate and botoxed TV talk show host Jill Johnson but stealing the show is Andrew Beckett’s Brian, the TV show’s make up artist, lighting up the stage with every appearance, ever ready with a comedic swish of a brush or sptritz of hairspray.

The rest of the cast are all note worthy and have potential to shine, particularly Julie Ross (Mom) and Jill Regan (Lee’s girlfriend, Karen) if only they were given more meaty stuff to do.

David Sheild’s inventive design makes great use of the space with the slide out glitter curtain and lights that appear from nowhere while Paul Taylor-Mills’ direction is seamless, particularly on the obligatory sex scene which, with its tasteful dimming of the lights, was the most electric part of the show.

Where Larsen is clever is in remaining impartial as to who the real victim is here and who is to blame for the resulting situation. We are left to consider if it’s Stanley with his inappropriate affections, the proud and ultimately bigoted Lee or the exploitative TV execs that thought this mismatch would be a ratings winner regardless of the fallout for those involved?

But given the potential of this story, it’s a crime that the script fails to go beyond the superficial. Dealing with a serious incident in a light and frothy way doesn’t automatically make a dark comedy. The fatal gunshot comes out of nowhere and leads to a rushed conclusion and sentimental ending which should have had more weight than the previous sixty minutes had earned it.

With more depth this would be a heart rending and thought provoking piece of theatre. As is stands it’s like we’re being told the headlines and not given proper access to the human story beneath.

 

SLEEPING WITH STRAIGHT MEN

Above The Stag Theatre

January 11 – February 12, 2012

Tues- Sat 7,30pm; Sun 6pm

Tickets £15

www.abovethestag.com

Login