dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

The Tailor-Made Man review at White Bear Theatre, London – ‘scintillating performances’

Tom Berkeley and Mitchell Hunt in The Tailor-Made Man at the White Bear Theatre, London. Photo: Andreas Lambis Tom Berkeley and Mitchell Hunt in The Tailor-Made Man at the White Bear Theatre, London. Photo: Andreas Lambis
by -

Drenched in the glitter and sleaze of 1920s Hollywood, Claudio Macor’s tale of sex scandals and open secrets at a major studio remains stingingly relevant some 25 years after its first production.

The Tailor-Made Man of the title is real life movie star William Haines, whose open homosexuality saw him fired and forcibly forgotten by his bosses at MGM.

Macor’s play revels in its golden age setting, stirring famous names, acidic humour, and some distinctly larger than life characterisations into the mix. As Haines, Mitchell Hunt dominates proceedings, a wisecracking clown with a booming, earnest voice, equal parts Jimmy Stewart and Jim Carrey. When he lets his guard down, though, he displays an affecting rawness. Between scenes, Tom Berkeley narrates as Haines’ faithful lifelong partner Jimmie, shedding light on their tender and bittersweet 50-year love affair.

Dean Harris, meanwhile, oozes menace and authority as archetypal studio boss Louis B. Mayer, both ruthless businessman and self-appointed moral arbiter. A passing line where Haines calls him out on his exploitative, predatory behaviour could hardly feel more timely.

Mike Lees’ smart, simple set is dressed with period furniture and vintage recording equipment. A hand-cranked movie camera pivots about the space, turning its lens onto characters at key moments. Director Bryan Hodgson gives the story a spirited, high energy treatment, with each snappy scene bookended by offstage shouts of “cut” or “action!” Both heightened and heartfelt, his production captures the feeling of an era poised between hedonism and repression.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Verdict
Scintillating performances energise this revived biography of a largely forgotten Hollywood icon
^