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The cast of The Watsons. Photo: Manuel Harlan
The cast of The Watsons. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Up for Grabs was a flaccid satire on money and the art market by Australian playwright David Williamson. It would have been banished from memory as soon as the final curtain fell if it were not for the fact that it starred Madonna in her one and only West End appearance.

Playing Loren – an art dealer desperately trying to inflate the price of a Jackson Pollock painting – Madonna was following in the footsteps of Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow, who both made successful UK stage debuts. In the Daily Telegraph, Charles Spencer observed that “it’s hard to imagine how any producer will be able to top the lure of Madonna”.

So, it was a shame that while it was a huge occasion for the West End – selling out in minutes with tickets appearing on the black market for the then-princely sum of £500 – Up for Grabs wasn’t a very good play and Madonna didn’t make it any better. Feeble of voice and lacking in stage presence, “she demonstrates the difference between acting and doing things on stage”, according to John Peter in the Sunday Times, while in the Independent Paul Taylor declared: “On occasion, you feel the car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang acts less mechanically.”

Madonna has not been back, but no doubt some canny producer will be eyeing up the possibility of Taylor Swift giving her Lady Macbeth in a bid to boost audiences post-pandemic.

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