THE PAST IS A TATOOED SAILOR
by Simon Blow
Old Red Lion Theatre to 28 08
418 St John Street, London EC1V 4NJ to 28 August 2016.
Tues-Sat 7.30 pm Mat Sat 2.30 pm & Sun 3 pm.
Runs 2hr 15 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 412 4307.
Review: William Russell 5 August.
Decadence fails to dazzle in dire play
On the face of it this should have been a sizzling romp through the life and times of Stephen Tennant, a one time Bright Young Thing who led a life of decadent idleness and was the model for, among others, Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited and Cedric Hampton in Love in a Cold Climate.
Simon Blow, whose first play this is, belongs to the Tenant family, the filthy rich Glenconner clan from Ayrshire whose ranks have included Princess Margaret’s chum, Colin Tennant, the man who made Mustique what it was, and the legendary fashion editor Isabella Blow who launched the careers of Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy.
Sadly Mr Blow, grandson of the architect Detmar Blow, who has written some splendid columns in magazines and newspapers as well as a bitchy warts and all history of his Tenant family, is no playwright and has been unable to provide his great uncle Stephen, who seemed to spend much of his time in bed at his country home, not always alone, with the bon mots such a character demands. Presumably Tenant was famed for being beautiful when young – he knew everyone – but not for his wit otherwise Mr Blow might have had stories to tell. Or possibly Mr Blow is no Oscar Wilde.
Joshua, a great nephew of Napier (the Stephen character) descends on him in his country retreat intent on working his way into his favour and getting his share of the family inheritance. He ends up, though, in a world of ghosts as Napier’s mother, who made him what he became, and Napier’s younger self intrude upon Joshua’s activities.
Joshua has brought along his boyfriend, a no nonsense piece of rough who duly services the bed bound man and is as anxious as he to get his hands on the cash, is impeded by a grasping cousin who represents the waiting Glenconner clan anxious to get their share of the loot. Past and present mingle with Denholm Spurr doing a nice double as Damian, Joshua’s working class lover, and Jean Baptiste, Napier’s French sailor of the title. Jojo Macari is a lissom Joshua, Nick Finegan a languid young Napier, a very gilded youth indeed, and Bernard O’Sullivan makes the most of the lines he has been given to deliver from Napier’s couch of choice.
Mr Blow may well be settling some old family scores, but it makes rather turgid viewing for outsiders although some theatre goers may well find something to enjoy in the limp louche goings on, especially when Mr Spurr strips off. But for most what could have been a joyful romp through decadence proves pretty flat and dreary in spite of some heroic efforts by the cast.
Young Napier: Nick Finegan.
Matthew: Paul Foulds.
Helena: Elizabeth George.
Joshua: Jojo Macari.
Uncle Napier: Bernard O’Sullivan.
Marcus/Patrick: John Rayment.
Damian/Jean Baptiste: Denholm Spurr.
Director: Jeffrey Mayhew.
Set Design: Rosie Mayhew.
Lighting Design: Sam Waddington.
Sound Design: Jack Lord.