London reviews for “The Little Dog Laughed,” Jamie Lloyd’s new production of Douglas Carter Beane’s blistering comic attack on Hollywood’s double-dealings over homosexuality, have been genuinely mixed.
The real weakness stems from the male cast. Harry Lloyd’s too fresh-faced rent boy Alex suffers in the comparison with Broadway’s more bruised Johnny Galecki, and Rupert Friend fails to bring depth to the role of the thesp on the brink of stardom. The shallowness of their relationship means the play looks even more like a smart-mouthed monologue with illustrative scenes attached.
About the only thing critics agree on is the comic extravagance of Tamsin Greig’s performance in the role of the power-hungry tenpercenter.
It’s a showstopper that won Julie White, its originator, a Tony. Like her predecessor, Greig stalks attitudinously over the white set braying like a donkey, whinnying maniacally overextended vowels to withering effect and nailing one-liners. Faced with the notion that her client might be on the verge of coming out, her ruthless retort, “Are you British? Do you have a knighthood? If not, shut up,” brings down the house — not least because Ian McKellen is playing a few streets away.
McKellen is back as Estragon in the return of the SRO revival of “Waiting for Godot.” But this time, instead of playing opposite Patrick Stewart, he’s facing the Vladmir of Roger Rees, returning to the U.K. stage for the first time in 22 years.
That’s far from the only show making a comeback. Both “Enron” and “Jerusalem” have just reopened in the West End after sellout runs at the Royal Court, and even Cameron Mackintosh’s beloved U.K. production of “Avenue Q” has been given a further lease on life. After a little more than three years at the Noel Coward, it moved across town to the Gielgud, and on March 19 will replace “An Inspector Calls” at Wyndham’s; at an intimate 750 seats, the Wyndham’s is one of the most sought-after playhouses in town.
Meantime, while there are new plays aplenty waiting in the wings — the latest from Bola Agbaje and Anupama Chandrasekhar are in rehearsal at the Royal Court, while new dramas from Dennis Kelly and David Greig will shortly appear via the Royal Shakespeare Company at Hampstead — London is full of revivals.
Robin Soans is magnificent as the outraged Sir Anthony Absolute in Sheridan’s Restoration comedy, “The Rivals,” at the off-off West End Southwark Playhouse. He’s matched by an assured Harry Hadden-Paton as his dashing son Jack. But the lack of directorial rigour in Jessica Swale’s production makes for a fairly bumpy ride.
The same can be said of the latest “Three Sisters” from experimental company Filter at the Lyric Hammersmith. Its quasi-rehearsal room atmosphere — indicated by highly visible sound and light operators onstage and actors only vaguely in costume — feels more than slightly secondhand. “Uncle Vanya on 42nd Street” got there first — and with a great deal more tension and insight.
It’s a truism of Chekhov that almost any of the actors can consider their character to be the focal point. But this is the first production in which the heroines are unintentionally upstaged by gently sincere performances from Tuzenbach (Jonathan Broadbent) and Ferrapont (Jim Bywater).