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Alan Ayckbourn‘s 2004 play centres on Charlie Conrad a B-list star who has caught the public’s attention by continually failing, and who has transformed over the years from an approachable, likeable guy to an aloof diva, with no time even to attend his young son’s birthday party. Fame brings Charlie little joy and slowly everything worth having is slipping away…
The attraction for many going to see this show will be Les Dennis appearing in the role of Charlie’s kind, smooth-talking agent Jason Ratcliffe. Much to my surprise, Dennis steps up to the challenge and is convincing and at times hilarious. Christopher Coghill has a tricky job playing ignorant celebrity Charlie, and he mostly succeeds though is occasionally a bit lacklustre. Helen Mortimer is awkward as Marsha Bates the young woman entertainer who turns into freakish clown, Mr Chortles. Her alter-ego becomes the focus of the play.
The real laughs are in the second half. Mark Farrelly and Russell Bentley as the two snappy lawyers catch the audience’s attention. Bentley is an instinctive comedian who thrives with Ayckbourn’s humour, when he entered I found I was leaning forward in my seat to enjoy the hysterical banter.
Apart from the unpleasant heat, this boutique theatre is unique in its layout and well worth a visit. You immediately feel involved – a quality perfect for Ayckbourn drama. Be warned though – the toilets are on stage, so be sure to go before the lights go down.