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A CurtainUp London Review
Sam (Sacha Dhawan) is working for Doghouse a lads’ magazine when he judges the reader competition for the best topless photo rewarded with a cover spread. Inadvertently he chooses an underage girl, whose boyfriend has sent in the photo and fudged the age declaration and consent form. When the girl’s father Mr Bradshaw (Kevin Doyle) hears about this, he arrives at the magazine asking to see the editor Aidan (Julian Barratt) to discuss how to rectify the situation.
In the second scenario Sam, unemployed for almost a year, is applying for a job on Electra a women’s magazine for the professional and affluent classes. Miranda (Janie Dee), the editor is interviewing him and he is tasked with working on a photograph of a gorgeous celebrity, red circling and explaining flaws such as bingo wings or orange peel skin. This cynical exercise illustrates the dichotomy of these publications bought to make the reader feel better but in fact underlining everyone’s physical insecurities.
Both Mr Bradshaw and Sam will be faced with a choice between financial security and their personal integrity. Lucy Kirkwood’s play is very well crafted in its ability to make you think about serious issues while providing funny and biting social comedy. Simon Godwin directs flawlessly. There wasn’t a scene I didn’t absolutely believe was really happening and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments.
The performances from Janie Dee, Sacha Dhawan and Kevin Doyle are outstanding. Dee’s Miranda, alpha female, tall, high heels, blonde mane is thrilling and chilling at the same time with her body dysmorphic agenda. She is also the mistress of high comic timing. Sacha Dhawan shows great sensitivity and an unusual vulnerability when he turns down a job opportunity in order to propose to his girlfriend; a fascinating and revealing back story monologue. Kevin Doyle, physically looking oppressed and given a hard time by life with his tall, thin, slightly stooped persona and morose body language, we can admire for his integrity and sympathise with the choice he faces.
There is sterling support work from Henry Lloyd-Hughes as Old Etonian Rupert, at one point called a “Fucking Eton Mess” (Eton Mess is a popular pudding of meringue and fruit served at exclusive Eton College and now reaching a wider dining public) who works on both Doghouse and Electra. On Electra Rupert’s job is to undergo beauty treatments normally taken up by women and to write about the experience from a man’s point of view. It’s an extension of the chest and leg waxing for men principle but Henry Lloyd-Hughes with an ultra shiny Botoxed face is an image I won’t forget for a very long time. There is also a topical joke in the light of a high up member of the Conservative party being obliged to resign after it was discovered that he called a policeman a pleb!
Tom Pye’s set has exciting visuals. Lit windows that move between scenes and good contrast between the magazines with Doghouse’s crowded office and Electra’s elegant, white leather, glass and steel minimalism. NSFW stands for Not Safe For Work, something on the Internet that shouldn’t be seen by your employers on your pc during the working day!
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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