This new play by author Jamie Alexander Wilson is a farcical whodunnit set in and around the set of a fictional soap opera. Backstage dramas have long been a fertile source for the playwright and here Wilson panders to every cliche in the book to create a woefully leaden farce that eventually devolves to become an inexplicably unresolved whodunit.
A scene from Soap Opera at Fairfield Halls, Croydon
While there are occasional moments of amusement in the dialogue there is little to commend this as a first draft, let alone a first play with Wilson constantly underestimating both the intelligence of his audience and their capacity for suspension of disbelief.
In the hands of a good director and an accomplished cast, Soap Opera might stand a chance but Wilson’s direction has all the subtlety and imagination of a touring pantomime. To add an air of authenticity to the proceedings the cast consists of a weighty contingent of ex-soap stars, none of whom seem at ease with the material.
Leslie Grantham gamely plays against type as the gay elder statesman of the soap and Graham Cole lends a comic touch to the bizarre storylines. Louis Emerick appears a more relaxed presence on stage, especially next to Michelle Gayle’s histrionic turn as leading lady Mariah George, but the rest of the cast simply lack either theatrical experience or thoughtful direction.
As a result the wonderful Kev Orkian, hilarious as predatory luvvie Kenneth Orlando, manages to steal every scene he is in. The problem is that with its reed-thin plot and achingly gauche structure, much of the time the scenes are not worth stealing in the first place.