|A Classy Production with a Talented Cast|
Penny Flood is impressed by The Last Tycoon at the Tabard Theatre
This smashing adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's great unfinished novel comes to the Tabard straight from the Arts Theatre in Leicester Square where it has just finished a very successful run. It’s almost a home coming as it’s the work of Chiswick based production company Ruby in the Dust who produced the splendid Great Gatsby at the Riverside, and Lady Windermere’s Fan at the Tabard last year
It's set in Hollywood in the 1920s - the decade of the bright young things which is reflected in the girls' gorgeous dresses, glitter and extravagant hairdos - telling the story of a young, successful movie maker Monroe Starr (Alexander Hulme) and his battle with studio boss Pat Brady (Sam Halfpenny) over his latest venture, a film of a Shakespeare play. We never know which one, but we do know that Pat and the accountants are sure it's going to lose money, something Monroe refuses to take on board.
Munroe should have the world at his feet, he's handsome, talented, successful and rich but things aren’t what they seem, the man is a bundle of contradictions, his pig headed obstinacy hiding a surprising vulnerability. This is a man tortured by his childhood memories, who still misses his mother. Hulme is splendid as Monroe, he doesn't play down the fact that Monroe is not easy to like, a man who has no compunctions about contemplating murder to get his own way, but he also brings out his inner fears making him sympathetic giving the story a strange haunting quality, not least when Munroe falls in love.
The opening sets the scene: a clever metaphor for what's happening to Monroe. Hero Douglas, who plays Pat's daughter Cecelia is an accomplished harpist and it opens with her playing the harp and singing a gentle song which is interrupted by a violent earthquake. Scratch the surface and see the hidden turmoil.
It's a show about the movies so of course the movies themselves have a big part to play. Actual footage of movies of the time featuring Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer and a very young Spencer Tracy, play on the screen at the back of the stage but they slowly and subtly give way to what going on inside Munroe' head.
And of course there's music to give it atmosphere, as when Monroe meets the mysterious, enigmatic Kathleen (Sullivan Mac) and they dance to the tune of Irving Berlin's I'll be Loving You Always. The tenderness of this is in sharp contrast to the rows in the studio making it a lovely touching moment.
This isn't a simple story, there's lot going on with different scenes - office, studio, ballroom, doctor's surgery and even a beach - all achieved with some clever, atmospheric lighting.
Fitzgerald didn't finish this novel, and at the end this the story gently and beautifully but sadly just fades away.
This a very classy production with a big talented cast, too many to name here but full marks to all of them for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. And thanks to Ruby in the Dust for bringing it to Chiswick.