Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Review Le Grand Mort


Le Grand Mort
by Stephen Clark

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner
http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/trafalgar-studios/

Like the comedy duo of the 1970s and 80s Little and Large, there are apparently two sizes of morts. La petite mort meaning - hide your eyes, dear reader, of delicate constitution - an orgasm. And then, rather ungrammatically, there is le grand mort.

A quick google reveals le grand mort here and here meaning the big exit, death, but it seems it needs la petite mort in this double act. One defines the other. Of course, we theatre afficianados aka blasé snobby intellectuals are well accustomed to the ambivalent Shakespearean meaning of dying!😉

After  that circumlocutory linguistic diversion, TLT and her little sidekick with the big  - um -  theatrical heart will now cut to the chase. What do your own theatregoing pair  think of Julian Clary's performance in this two hander (apologies to the other acting half James Nelson-Joyce for this shameless piece of celebrity lionisation)?

Considering this is a verbose, red herring of a play, Mr Clary acquits himself elegantly, remembering his lines and managing to cook an aromatic pasta  puttanesca in a frying pan all at the same time. 

Yet the play, by the late Stephen Clark better known for his musical theatre librettos and lyrics, is a distinct oddity which surely is a first draft rather than a polished play?

Played out in a gleaming stainless steel kitchen set designed by Justin Nardella, Clary's at first unnamed character is preparing for his prospective dinner guest and for our delectation. Yes, he chops and he slices and peels while regaling us - in verse - with his own circumlocutory diversion about voyeurism, fetishism and necrophilia.

TLT and her companion though almost let out a joyful toot when his dinner guest - James Nelson-Joyce - finally arrived and the play GOT ON WITH THE STORY (sort of). 

From then on, it was a case of guess who's coming to dinner because, by the end of the play, TLT & co was still trying to work out the who, whys and wherefores. 

Finally, we could only come to the conclusion that this was some kind of writer's or actor's exercise about lying, storytelling, sex, death and murder which should have remained in the rehearsal room.

All of which is a shame because Clary possesses considerable stage presence and his voice has a clear, versatile tone, all of which deserves a much better vehicle. 

His camp star quality is of course for many the main attraction. However his smooth, bespectacled, sometimes more subdued, demeanour gave a glimpse of an actor who could be cast against type.

Nelson-Joyce is fine, as far as it goes, as the foil, Tim, who apparently can hold his own in intellectual role-play. His Liverpuddlian accent at first caused your theatregoing pair to wonder whether this was a riff on Brian Epstein and a lover. Then, when the talk turned to murder, Jo Orton and Kenneth Halliwell.

In other words, and my oh my there were lots of words!, a whole gamut of popular, arty farty, cod history and literary referenccs strung together. Lucien Freud got a mention, Bacon got a mention, allthough luckily it eschewed a frying pan pun about freud bacon 😉.

Of course Freud, especially, was famous for his nudes and potential punters may want to be alerted that full frontal male nudity is briefly part of the action.

Director Christopher Renshaw imposes a clarity of structure on muddled proceedings aided by Jamie Platt's lighting and Ed Lewis's filmic soundscape.

It  might be a fun night to share a pasta puttanesca and glass of wine with friends and then go and see the show. So Le Grand Mort may still be a recipe for success!  However for TLT it remained a potential crime mystery play more "Strewth!" than "Sleuth" and it's a lower range amber light.

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