Olivia Poulet in Product. Photo by Richard Davenport
If the film Olivia Poulet's Leah is pitching to an actress had a movie poster it would be the sort that you'd run a mile from. Mark Ravenhill's satirical monologue is far more entertaining than the finished product ever would be or perhaps it would be a film so bad it would actually be good.
Leah thinks she has the perfect script for big actress Julia. She needs a big name actress to get the film green lit and Julia's career is on the wane:
"It's a three dimensional character, I'd love to see you play a three dimensional again."
And so for 50 minutes Leah talks Julia through the plot, re-anacting bits of the script, playing mood music, giving costume notes "You are wearing a gorgeous Versace suit, Versace are on board" and generally scene setting.
It is a cringe-worthy script which will be "hardened up" and a plot that is laced with female and racial stereotypes. Imagine Bridget Jones crossed with a bad Jason Statham action movie. Leah wants Julia to play the central character Amy, a successful, jet-setting woman living in a "beautiful warehouse apartment in East London that used to be an abattoir". Amy meets and falls in love with Mohammad, a Jihadist. Osama Bin Laden even makes an appearance. It's pure farce. It's cackle-inducing.
But this isn't just about the bad movie, it's about movie making as a commercial enterprise masquerading as an art form. And it's about Leah's increasingly desperate attempts to sell the movie. Leah peels off lists of inner monologues for particular scenes, breaking flow to mention how fantastic the lighting will be and body doubles. You can only imagine the look on Julia's face throughout.
It's a masterclass in acting from Poulet and, ironically, a level of talent which wouldn't even save this film from heading straight to DVD were it to be made.
Product is silly, ridiculous and sharp. It's a thoroughly entertaining 50 minutes. Catch it at the Arcola's Studio 2 until May 23