Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Theatre review: The Glass Protégé

Matthew Gould's production of The Glass Protégé opens with the full three-minute trailer for the 1947 film The Bishop's Wife, in which Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young exchange scripted banter about how the film's so full of surprises, they're not going to show any clips in the trailer so as not to spoil the audience's experience watching it. It's not got anything to do with the rest of the show, but it's still the best thing about it. In 1949, some cheekbones called Patrick Glass (David R. Butler) are discovered in local rep in Oxford, and taken to Hollywood by their agent/producer (Roger Parkins.) When one of the leads in his first picture is sacked for inappropriate behaviour, Patrick is promoted to second lead opposite established heart-throb Jackson (Alexander Hulme,) whose legions of female fans are kept in the dark about his sexuality. Patrick quickly falls for Jackson and they're soon sleeping together.

That plot description takes us well into the second act in a play where very little happens, and what story development there is can be seen a mile off.

Unfortunately I found little to like about The Glass Protégé: Dylan Costello's script is one Hollywood cliché after another, and if there's been any research put into it it's not apparent. If Butler manages to keep his sanity by the end of the run he deserves some kind of medal, as there can be few less rewarding roles - his dialogue consists entirely of "sorry?" "excuse me?" "what do you mean?" and other variations on "please provide more exposition now." He and Hulme do their best to make their relationship work, but Gould's production, with its sluggish scene transitions bringing the action to a dead halt every few minutes, has little chance of giving them the momentum or atmosphere they need to make us care.

In an overused framing device, we see an older Patrick (Paul Lavers) in 1989, having turned so strongly against Hollywood that he's spent the rest of his life living smack bang in the middle of it. This leads to a dénouement where he makes up with his son (Stephen Connery-Brown,) who's spent the play as a borderline Norman Bates figure terrorising his mail order bride (Sheena May,) but is basically fine now.

You end up looking for little things to salvage the evening - both Laurie and I liked how designer Jean Gray, who put the set in place with her telekinetic powers, used the "LAND" part of the "HOLLYWOODLAND" sign flickering on and off to denote the transitions between 1949 and 1989. Emily Loomes as a damaged starlet is also good value, and when both male leads get their inevitableFULL-FRONTAL MALE NUDITY ALERT!(OK, not all the positives are little things,) Hulme's at least is staged with some flair. But there's not a lot you can do with a script that made me cringe as often as this one did.

The Glass Protégé by Dylan Costello is booking until the 9th of May at Park Theatre 90.

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes including interval

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