Review: Simon Stephen's poetic, passionate yet imperfect Carmen Disruption, Almeida Theatre

Review: The Glass Protege, Park Theatre studio

Alexander Hulme as Jackson and David Butler as Patrick
Alexander Hulme and David R Butler in The Glass Protege

This is the second play I've seen this year about being gay in 1940/50s Hollywood. And like Gods and Monster's at Southwark Playhouse, The Glass Protege explores the difficulties faced by gay men working in the film industry, an industry that turned a blind eye but only when it suited.

Patrick (David R Butler) has arrived from working in rep in Oxford to play second fiddle in a Hollywood film with hearthrob du jour Jackson (Alexander Hulme). There are all sorts of rumours floating around about Jackson's sexuality and a rather nasty gossip journalist (Mary Stewart) just waiting for the right evidence.

Our young British actor is fairly inexperienced in the ways of the world but when several of the characters tell him he'll soon lose his innocence under the corrupting influence of Hollywood's film industry his fate is sealed.

The central thread follows the story of Patrick and Jackson together with sassy actress Candice (Emily Loomes) who is playing the dumb beauty in the film. However, by way of a narrative device writer Dylan Costello has created a second plotline set in the 1980s when Patrick is a grumpy old man living with his son George (Stephen Connery-Brown). George's mail order bride Ava (Sheena May) has just arrived but he wants to hide the truth about her from his father and so has her play along as his new assistant.

And this is where I have a problem with the play.  The whole George/Ava plot feels wholly unnecessary and George is actually a bit scary - he wants to keep Ava locked up in the house and is jealous of her even talking on the phone to other people. It doesn't add anything in fact it gets in the way.

Where the play is really interesting is in how it explores the social and sexual politics of Hollywood and how those that work in it manipulate and are manipulated for the good of some extra ticket sales. It is also a very human story about the costs of being entangled in the movie business; a business that is fickle and shallow, an industry than can raise people up to great heights and then brutally pull the rug out from under their feet and not even hang around long enough to see them fall.

The central performances by Butler and Hulme are key to this and they make for a convincing couple - I just would have like to have seen more of that rather than the household of the aging Patrick.

Like Gods and Monsters there is nudity and I'm not going to complain about getting to see a fine male physique in the buff but would it effect the story if they didn't strip off? Probably not. In fact it feels like you can't have a gay play unless at least one person gets their kit off these days.

If you enjoyed Gods and Monsters and want to see Hollywood from a slightly different perspective then definitely check this out.

The Glass Protege runs at the Park Theatre Studio 90 until May 9.