Curtain Call review at White Bear Theatre, London – ‘a crass tragicomedy’
In his crass and unfunny play Curtain Call, Simon Bradbury also takes the lead role of Stanley Shenton, a once distinguished classical actor suffering from an inability to remember his lines and reduced to performing in murder mysteries in a restaurant in Southend.
Tracked down by his former girlfriend, theatre director Shelley (Heide Yates), he is persuaded to play Gloucester to the King Lear of his one-time best friend turned nemesis, TV star Rod C Tanner (Aran Bell).
Bradbury doesn’t appear to know if he wants his play to be a comedy or drama and it doesn’t succeed at being either. It weighs itself down with self-indulgent characters and trivialises themes of alcoholism, depression, and loneliness with a dependence on toilet humour and neurotic luvvie stereotypes. Along with plodding direction by Brian Croucher, it has a musty feel not unlike the mouldy dressing room in which it’s set.
It’s hard to believe how dim a supposedly successful director would have to be to cast such an embittered pair together, or that she wouldn’t have noticed Stanley struggling with his lines. The battle of wits between the pompous Stanley and smarmy Rod, meanwhile, comes across as tedious childish bickering.
The energy picks up in the King Lear Goes Wrong second act and there is one moment of genuine pathos towards the end but it’s too late to wish for Stanley’s redemption by then. The romcom conclusion might tie things up neatly for a generous-spirited audience; those less charitable might have preferred something more akin to the ending of King Lear.