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Olivia Poulet in Product by Mark Ravenhill at the Arcola Theatre. Photo: Richard Davenport Olivia Poulet in Product by Mark Ravenhill at the Arcola Theatre. Photo: Richard Davenport
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When it was originally staged by Paines Plough in 2005, Mark Ravenhill spoke his own monologue in his acting debut, with a silent onstage listener played by Elizabeth Baker. In this superb revival, first seen at Edinburgh last year, the silent listener has been dropped and Olivia Poulet delivers the monologue on an empty stage.

Poulet plays a film producer who is pitching a project called Mohammed and Me to an unseen female Hollywood star. The star is in the frame to play Amy, a privileged white woman who meets and falls in love with a  stranger who turns out to be part of a jihadi cell. At one wicked moment, the couple are visited by Bin Laden himself, and she gets a “warm breathy kiss on the forehead from Osama”.

It’s a brilliant piece of satirical writing. As the plot becomes increasingly outrageous, this monologue develops into an attack on cliched film dialogue and a joyous example of absurd storytelling. The content, which examines Western prejudices against the Muslim other, remains relevant, and the jokes about movieland and the media are still hilarious.

With only a leather chair, script and pen, Poulet performs with a kind of desperate conviction that instantly commands attention. Full of energy, she taps the script, acts out the characters of Amy and Mohammed, and paces up and down. She also carefully suggests that she knows in her heart that she’s selling a dud. This is a slight but powerful monologue and director Robert Shaw’s production is a little gem.

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Verdict
Olivia Poulet stars in a sharp revival of Mark Ravenhill’s play that is both a satire on Hollywood and an example of unrestrained storytelling
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