Written by Christopher Hampton, Directed by Paul Morgan
Unity Theatre, 19th-21st May 2005
It gives me no pleasure to give such a bad review to a small locally
based theatre group, but when you put yourself on stage you also put yourself
in the firing line. You ask people to spend their time and money on you,
so your work needs to be of a very high standard. Unfortunately, Alsop
Drama’s production of Christopher Hampton’s Tales From Hollywood
was the worst stage show I have ever seen.
I wasn’t familiar with this play beforehand, but then if I had been
I wouldn’t have gone.
Though anti-fascist playwright Odon Von Horvath never went to America,
here he narrates a largely fictionalised account of what happened to East
European writers exiled there during World War Two. We are presented with
a feeble and dripping wet criticism of the Hollywood film industry, where
"a writer's importance to the cinema is on a par with the hairdresser".
Ha ha. Icons such as Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann are paraded before
us, but are reduced to one-dimensional caricatures. Minor characters fare
even worse, floating about without making any impression. The only person
I felt any empathy with was the woman holding cards at the edge of the
stage, whose very practiced expression of sheer boredom mirrored that
of most of the audience. The rest of the actors seemed very under rehearsed,
jumping in all over each other and messing up their lines, for what little
those were worth in the first place.
It wasn’t just me either. A large group of American tourists left
during the interval, muttering bitterly and leaving the theatre only two-thirds
full. In the second part there was actually quite a good line, and a woman
behind me openly declared "Well that was quite a good line”.
When the disasterpiece finally ground to a shuddering halt, the cast took
their bows two by two and dragged the agony out even further. What began
as a ripple of polite applause finally petered-out into embarrassed near
silence. Outside, the gentle rain seemed like blessed relief.