THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED
by Douglas Carter Beane.
Garrick Theatre Charing Cross Road To 10 April 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 412 4662.
www.thelittledoglaughed.com (booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 January.
Light and very bright.
Theatre about theatre can be inward-looking or, as here, exhilarating. US dramatist Douglas Carter Beane’s comedy (about theatre and cinema) begins with some so-so not-quite-sex between drunk client and hetero rent-boy. Desire leads to affection, and a scene of sexual tension disrupted by one of the oldest tricks in the staging handbook, to hilarious effect; the old ones can still be the best.
Yet, that’s not quikte how things start. In the beginning is the agent: Diane, who breaks the fourth-wall and soon has the audience launching into ‘Moon River’. Ah, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn: sheer elegance. We want beauty on screen, and non-elegant reality has no place in Hollywood (which, as usual, assumes it is cinema).
Blake Edwards’ film turned the gay relationship of Truman Capote’s story into a man-woman thing. And that’s what’s going to happen to the story Diane gets her hands on here. Though the writer, kept in his proper place, stays unseen or unheard down a ‘phone-line. What we see, what matters, is Diane and her client, young actor Mitchell, who’s allowed to use his gay credentials (kept tight-secret by Diane) to sign up the play, before Diane mauls it into publicly-acceptable shape as she’s intended all along.
We think the invisible writer’s being manipulated? Or Mitchell, rent-boy Alex and girlfriend Ellen? What about us? Diane ends up shaping our theatre experience (OK, in fact, it’s playwright Carter Beane, not actor Tamsin Greig, but he’s making the point). Diane tells us we’re starting, send us out for the interval, brings things to the conclusion she wants. And even as she’s controlling the whole experience, stepping out of proscenium reality, sharing her underlying attitudes, she’s manipulating all around, clutching her purpose to herself as firmly as she hangs onto her clutch-bag.
Magnificently, in Tamsin Greig’s performance, which can shriekingly fill a room or create an island of confidentiality through a self-conscious expression of the face or a gear-shift in the voice. It’s a comic tour de force of a toweringly forceful personality set amid other stong performances and the non-world of Soutra Gilmour’s spare designs.
Diane: Tamsin Greig.
Mitchell: Rupert friend.
Ellen: Gemma Arterton.
Alex: Harry Lloyd.
Director: Jamie Lloyd.
Designer: Soutra Gilmour.
Lighting: Jon Clark.
Sound/Music: Ben and Max Ringham.
Dialect coach: Penny Dyer.
Associate director: Sam Yates.