16 September 2006

Marlon Brando's Corset, Greenwich Theatre, 15th September 2006

At one point in this so-called comedy, Les Dennis’ character is reading “Hello!” magazine and says “I can’t help but feel that the beautiful, oxygen producing trees that died in order to print this pile of shit got a raw deal”. One could say exactly the same about the trees that died in order to print the script for this pile of shit. Billed as “Direct from the Edinburgh Festival” (a phrase that should ring warning bells anyway), this pretentious piece of rubbish tries vainly to be a satiric look at fame and its price, and the lengths that “celebrities” are prepared to go to in order to maintain their image in their adoring public’s eye. Obviously whoever wrote it has been overdosing on episodes of Holby City and Big Brother, and has recently seen “Shallow Grave” because its unlikely premise is that the pretty-boy star of a popular hospital drama is going to kill the scriptwriter who is threatening to “out” him by writing an exposé which he is going to sell to a national newspaper in order to pay a mafia thug £105,000. Pretty-boy’s colleagues in the cast discover the body, and then they chop it up, pack it into bags and dispose of it by burying it.

Presented on a tiny set which looks marooned on the large thrust stage at Greenwich, the piece tries vainly to hit too many points, and succeeds only in missing all of them, to the bewilderment of the audience. Is this a comedy thriller? Is this a satire on the price of fame? Is this just the rambling of an untalented playwright who has tried their hand at stand up comedy and then shoe-horned the genre into a stage play? We never find out. Interspersed with the play proper, there are “cut scenes” in which the cast members of “Healing Hands” purport to be giving interviews in a documentary about the making of the programme. These are irritating and jejune, but give the cast time to be “profound”.

Funnily enough, the casting of this play turns out to be cleverer than the actual script. Mike McShane plays the hyperactive American director of “Healing Hands in a style very reminiscent of Mike McShane performing in “Who’s Line is it Anyway?”. Jeremy Edwards plays a micro-talented, pretty boy Surgeon (“the kind of man who gets hung up on teenage girls’ bedroom walls”), who is contractually obliged to take his shirt off at least once in every episode, who turns down offers from Hollywood because he wants to ‘maintain his artistic integrity’ and who is so worried that being outed as a “big butt fairy” will stop those offers coming in that he is willing to murder Les Dennis (who wouldn’t want to murder Les Dennis?). Les Dennis plays the put upon, struggling writer who longs to turn out “art” but has become a hack soap opera scriptwriter in order to pay his bills. He also complains at one point that "People should be saving the planet, not voting some retard out of the Big Brother House". Hang on - isn't this the same Les Dennis who was a guest of Davina McCall a couple of years back and who reacted to his unceremonious booting out with less than perfect grace? All three actors are therefore, basically, parodying their real-life persona. Interestingly, Dennis doesn’t play his own murdered corpse, therefore allowing him to resurrect exactly in the way that the real Les Dennis did after famously appearing in “Extras” as a struggling actor who longs to appear in “art” but has to take jobs in panto in order to pay the bills.

To say that this was played in the manner called “broad” is like saying Wagner’s operas go on a bit. Maybe the cast were trying to cover up the inherent paucity of the material being performed, but it only served to highlight it. To be fair, it was pointed out to me later that they were doing their best with a rotten script.

Oh, and we never DID find out why it was called “Marlon Brando’s Corset”. At one point, several characters comment on the fact that one of them has seen “The Godfather” 17 times. “Ive seen “The Godfather” 17 times”. “What? You’ve seen “The Godfather” 17 times?”. “Yes, I’ve seen “The Godfather” 17 times”. If we were expected to be picking up on a reference here, unfortunately the point was being hammered home so hard that I couldn’t hear it.

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