by John Giare.

Old Vic The Cut SE1 8NB To 3 April 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio described 25 Feb.
Captioned 18 Feb.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.

TICKETS: 0844 871 7628. (£2.50 transaction fee)
Review Carole Woddis19 January.

Generation gap marked in performances.
Truth is so often stranger than fiction. Nineteen years ago John Guare took the story of real-life con-man David Hampton and spun it, with a quasi-scientific theory of human connectedness, into a play about the power of the imagination and the gullibility of the rich. At the time, I remember being pole-axed by the idea and also by having such proximity confirmed as a possibility after strange coincidences in my own life.

The play became a box-office winner then a famous film with Stockhard Channing. Now, almost two decades later, it is revived by David Grindley with, on paper, a cast-iron cast including Lesley Manville, Steven Pacey, Anthony Head and Obi Abili, who made such a splash in The Brothers Size, as the hustler who convinces Manhattan socialites he is the son of Sidney Poitier and the greatest pal of all of their various offspring at Harvard, Yale and elsewhere.

The Grindley crew play it fast and furious as though it were in part boulevard comedy and in part an extension of Yasmina Reza’s satire, Art. All false, high gloss, the style sits oddly with Guare’s heart-tugging twists towards the end.

There is a magnificent moment when Manville as the wife of Anthony Head’s art-dealer, Flan, is trying to get Abili’s Paul to hand himself in. His face collapses and he lets out an agonised, “I’m blaack. They’ll kill me in there”.

Suddenly you comprehend Guare’s real target: the gulf between the haves and have nots and how easily, with a little ingenuity, that gap can be closed. Guare, it seems, is on the side of the hustler.

Time, however, has not dealt kindly with the play’s central premise. We’re just too aware both of the conceit and the theory it inhabits. It no longer takes us by surprise. And Grindley’s approach adds to the adult characters’ lack of credibility.

Freshness however still rattles off the lines spoken by the younger generation. Ilan Goodman, Michael Goldsmith, Zoe Boyle and Paul Stocker provide a fabulous gallery of spoilt `brat’ rebellion spitting venom at uncomprehending parents. That really cuts the mustard.

Ouisa: Lesley Manville.
Flan: Anthony Head.
Geoffrey: Ian Redford.
Paul: Obi Abili.
Doorman/Dr Fine: Stephen Greif.
Hustler/Policeman: Kevin Kiely.
Kitty: Sara Stewart.
Larkin: Steven Pacey.
Detective: John Moraitis.
Tess: Zoe Boyle.
Woody: Paul Stocker.
Ben: Michael Goldsmith.
Doug: Ilan Goodman.
Trent: Kevin Trainor.
Rick: Luke Neal.
Elizabeth: Sarah Goldberg.

Director: David Grindley.
Designer: Jonathan Fensom.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.

2010-01-22 18:15:39

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