Review: RSC's King and Country cycle - Henry V, Barbican
Review: Simon Stephens' poetic and pregnant Herons, Lyric Hammersmith

The Digital Theatre experience on the big screen: True West (filmed at the Tricycle)

88933To celebrate adding True West to its library, Digital Theatre held a special screening at the Regent Street Cinema last night (non-other than Lady Margaery - Natalie Dormer - was in attendance to add a touch of celebrity glamour). The cinema itself is celebrating its 120th anniversary and boasts being the birthplace of cinema in the UK - it's a lovely old cinema, lovingly restored and well worth a trip if you you want somewhere with a bit more soul than a multiplex for your film-watching.

But back to theatre, sort of. I'm told recordings of plays don't count but then for many it is often the only opportunity to see theatre so I'm still counting it. While it is never going to replace the thrill of seeing live theatre for me, its a great way of catching something I've missed and with Digital Theatre you don't even have to go to the cinema.

True West was a co-production between Glasgow's Citizens Theatre and the Tricycle in London and was filmed at the Tricycle. Didn't get to see it on stage and it's an interesting piece. Written by Sam Shepard it is a tense family drama set in a town outside of Los Angeles. Austin (Eugene O'Hare) is house-sitting for his mother while she is in Alaska. He's a straight-laced, sensible screenwriter on the verge of success and has arranged an important meeting at the house with film producer Saul Kimmer (Steven Elliot) who is interested in his work.

His brother Lee (Alex Fern) who is an alcoholic, scruffy, petty criminal, decides to drop by. Lee has a story he thinks would make a great film so Austin reluctantly helps him write an outline to pitch to Saul. Whether genuinely interested or as the result of losing a bet with Lee, Saul decides to develop Lee's story, much to Austin's annoyance, and the two are forced to work together.

It is a play about family rivalries and squabbles, it's about two very different people forced to confront their differences and prejudices with sometimes very amusing consequenes.

The critics seemed to have really liked this production but I had a big problem with it. It's not the play but in how Lee is presented. For some reason his alcholism and petty criminal background seems to have been translated into a look something akin to someone who has lived on the streets for years. His teeth were black and rotten, his clothes stained and scruffy and his hands, arms and face filthy with muck as if he hadn't washed for weeks. I just didn't believe that a Hollywood exec would give him the time of day let alone look at his pitch - he certainly wouldn't have gone and played golf with him. I wanted Austin to suggest he have a bath.

It put the play off kilter for me. I don't think such an extreme look was necessary in order for the play to work and likewise the destruction the brothers later wreak in the house.

Appearances aside the performances were great with the camera close-ups really picking out the intensity and nuances. I would like to see a different production though to see if it worked better for me.