The TheatreguideLondon Review
Drowning on Dry Land
Ayckbourn's unique blend of laugh-out-loud comedy, touching human drama
and sharp social comment is apparent in this 2004 dissection of
celebrity culture, and if it is not quite top-rank Ayckbourn, that's
just because the target is a bit too easy for the playwright to really
have to work at it.
Ayckbourn's hero is
Charlie Conrad, a former athlete who lost the big race, got the lowest
possible score on a TV quiz and rapidly became known as The Guy Who
Couldn't Do Anything Right. Naturally enough, he became a big star,
opening supermarkets and endorsing products, rich and famous just
because he was famous.
(If that seems a
bit far-fetched, I need only remind you of more than one TV reality
show figure who built fame and a career on nothing more than being
stupid or nasty or big-breasted.)
But in the course
of the play a minor indiscretion gets leapt upon by the same tabloids
and fad-exploiters who created him, and Charlie finds himself back at
the bottom even more quickly than he rose to the top.
And that's about
it. The fact that Charlie is essentially an ordinary bloke and a nice
guy is enough to make us care about him, and the introduction of a
couple of oily lawyers, irresistible targets of our disdain, deflects
any anger we might feel against the real agents of his fall or those
who desert him on the way down.
So the play isn't
as sharp-edged as, say, Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular, just a
quietly comic and quietly sad portrait of a little man who was never
really in control of his life.
Retallack allows a couple of his actors to play too big and broadly for
the tiny Jermyn Street Theatre, but draws quietly effective and
affecting performances from Christopher Coghill as Charlie, Les Dennis
as his agent and, in a tour-de-force of oiliness, Mark Farrelly as the
kind of lawyer you'd rather have on your side than against you.
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Review - Drowning on Dry Land - Jermyn Street 2011