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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at the Garrick


  Tamsin Greig/ Ph: Hugo Glendinning

Over the decades the theater has aimed some effective body blows at Hollywood. From Once in a LifetimeBoy Meets Girl and The Big Knife to, more recently, Moonlight and Magnolias and Swimming with Sharks, the vicissitudes of movie making have provided playwrights with some delicious satirical pickings.
The latest bit of Hollywood bashing is Douglas Carter Beane's The Little Dog Laughed, a barbed rom-com of sorts that delights in showing the lengths to which a powerful actor's agent will go to prevent her handsome, most bankable male client from committing professional suicide by outing himself as gay.
Rupert Friend plays Mitchell, the personable star in question whose movie career is headed for the buffers after he spends the night in a New York hotel room with Alex (Harry Lloyd), a dishy rent-boy, who claims to be straight and is only gay for pay. 
Had their liaison been nothing more than a one-night stand, no one would be any the wiser. Turns out, though, that Mitchell really fancies Alex and, what's more, that Alex, despite having a girlfriend called Ellen (Gemma Arterton), feels the same way about Mitchell. Not only that, but – shock, horror! – Mitchell is prepared to go public with his newfound romance. 
Aware of the professional catastrophe about to befall her valuable client, Diane (Tamsin Greig), uses her manipulative clout by making quite sure her leading man's career-ruining intentions go no further than the drawing board. 
The damage limitations that she sets in motion form the basis of the play's second half reveal to what lengths powerful agents will go to suppress even the merest hint of homosexuality in a Hollywood heartthrob. Which, of course, explains why so few of Tinseltown's leading men have come out of the closet mid-career.
It's such an obvious subject for satire, it's surprising it has never been done before. Carter Beane seizes the opportunity with a great deal of wit and insider trading (he knows exactly what's at stake in the situation) and, aided by director Jamie Lloyd, deftly keeps the narrative on its toes.  
The romantic scenes between Mitchell and Alex are skillfully judged for Broadway and West End sensibilities, and, with the exception of Ellen, Alex's erstwhile girlfriend, the characters manage (just) to avoid stereotypes. 
The stand-out role belongs to Tamsin Greig, who, as the unsentimental, abrasive, take-no-prisoners agent, dominates proceedings with a stridency I found irritating. Though she's the glue that binds the play, every now and then she comes unstuck with a shrillness that substitutes for forcefulness. I'm not asking for subtlety here; just that she tones it down a notch.

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