by Noël Coward adapted by Christopher Luscombe.
Tour to 31 March 2012.
Runs: 2hr One interval.
Review: Alan Geary: 11 October.
Coward far from his best; and it’s a production with problems. Worth a look though.
Coward’s final play – far from his best, though it’s difficult to gauge the contribution of adapter Christopher Luscombe – is about his own world. It looks at the internal politics and rivalries as a new play, an evident clunker called ‘Dark Heritage’, is being put together. We follow the production from first read-through to opening night.
Star Quality is set in 1951 but Coward uses it to critique some of the things he was loathing about English theatre when he wrote it in the sixties, things to do with the contemporary theatre’s preoccupation with kitchens and sinks.
Un-tipped fags are held, smoked and fussed over exactly as in the thirties, but the theme of homosexuality is dealt with more overtly than it would have been pre-war. More importantly, and in spite of Coward’s stance, the play is, on the face of it, more plebeian, more set in a world ordinary sixties people could relate to. For this reason two long, artificially set-piece speeches from Lorraine and Ray sit awkwardly and unrealistically on the rest of the play.
A lot of the actors seem to be in separate and unrelated productions. Nevertheless Nora (Gay Soper), the working-class dogsbody chorus, is the comic heart of the evening; and Bob Saul, as bright-eyed playwright Bryan, gives a good performance. There’s also an un-named hound playing a dog called Bothwell who doesn’t do very much at all.
Amanda Donohoe, as Lorraine Barrie, who’s starring in ‘Dark Heritage’, has a problem remembering her lines, and a tendency from time to time to look at the audience instead of the character she’s talking to. This matters a lot because Lorraine isn’t just the central character; she’s Coward’s main mouthpiece. With all her personal faults and inadequacies, Lorraine is what the theatre is all about; without her and stars like her it wouldn’t exist. Coward is one hundred percent on Lorraine’s side.
Daniel Casey, as Ray, the director of ‘Dark Heritage’, also has trouble with some of his lines. What’s more, he’s excessively deadpan; he under-acts.
This Star Quality isn’t a must see; but it’s worth a look. Besides dealing with the pathos and seediness of theatre, it touches on the partial mystery of all that we mean by the word ‘theatre’.
Bryan Snow: Bob Saul.
Ray Malcolm: Daniel Casey.
Nora Mitchell: Gay Soper.
Lorraine Barrie: Amanda Donohoe – (2012 dates): Liza Goddard.
Harry Thornton: Keith Myers.
Beryl Fletcher: Vivien Keene.
Bob Deacon: Brendan Riding.
Eric Larch: Simon Cole.
Laura Witby: Sonia Saville.
Marion Blake: Sarah Berger.
Gerald Wentworth: Michael Lumsden – (2012 dates) Keith Myers.
Tony Orford: Anthony Houghton.
Director: Joe Harmston.
Designer: Adrian Linford.
Lighting: James Whiteside.
Sound/Composer: Matthew Bugg.