Curtain Call by Simon Bradbury
White Bear Theatre, short walk from Kennington tube station
To December 16th
Runs 2h, one 15 minute interval
Review Info: Veronica Stein, December 2nd, 2017.
Simon Shenton is a classical actor- but will everything else that he is lead to his downfall?
The stage of the White Bear is adorned with posters of several classic theatrical works, a glittering greeting card, and several bottles of whisky. This setting serves as a dressing room for the majority of Curtain Call, but also as the thematic objectification of Simon Bradbury’s bittersweet contemplation of theatre, love & friendship, and alcoholism.
Stanley Shenton, played with confidence and the perfect amount of decay by the playwright, is an aging classical actor whose career has gone from the bard to the beach in seaside dinner theatres. An opportunity to return to the work that he loves arrives through Shelley, his old girlfriend, who is directing a new production of King Lear. The trouble is, Shenton’s best friend turned rival, Rod C. Tanner of recent television fame, will be Lear. So begins a battle of wits, one of traditionalism versus rebirth– but is Shenton holding on to his art or his dignity? And can he even remember his lines with all of the drink he’s had?
The first act of Curtain Call leaves quite a bit to be desired (specifically in energy and pace), but the second largely makes up for it with the play’s greatest moments of hilarity as well as its most touching. Holding strong throughout is Bradbury, who fills the character and the theatre with ease and authenticity. As the second act begins on opening night of King Lear, Aran Bell comes into his own as Tanner and the chemistry between the two in the moments before they take to the stage as Lear and Gloucester is crackling. Yates’s performance as Shelley is stunted by the rampant British-isms that don’t sit well with her natural accent- but regardless the three do well in this piece about how we value work, art, each other, and ourselves.
Hats off to Bradbury not only for his performance but for the well-balanced play opening the White Bear’s Christmas season. Its meditation on the lies we tell ourselves, particularly the upkeep of our old selves that might no longer exist, is interlaced with many quality moments of comedy for both lovers of theatre and general audiences alike. This reviewer suspects that the jokes and moments of poignancy that are certainly in the text will only land with more efficacy over the course of the run.
Stanley Shenton: Simon Bradbury
Shelley Klein: Heide Yates
Rod C. Tanner: Aran Bell
Director: Brian Croucher
Design: Beth Colley, Miles Fisher, Annie Fletcher