Review by David Munro
I AM somewhat confused as to exactly what the point of The
Holy Terror, at Richmond Theatre, was.
On the surface, it was the old trite tale of the megalomaniac
who succeeds in business, at the price of his own happiness, and
that of everybody else he touches.
Here it is set in the framework of a lecture/talk to a ladies'
lunch, or Women's Institute by the successful publisher, Mark
Melon (Simon Callow ) with the highlights of his story being acted
out by the supporting cast.
The first act is very funny, with Callow giving the bumbling
persona he created for The Ginger Man, and which he has been playing
on and off ever since on stage and screen.
In The Holy Terror, the bonhomie is intended to mask
the ruthlessness of the man who destroys lives and characters
with a laugh and a quip.
This Callow does well and entertainingly, and he is well supported
by a cast who allow him to ride roughshod over them.
Then, if I have understood the second act alright, he becomes
so steeped in deceit that he becomes incapable of seeing the truth
any longer, but this does not destroy him, and simply renders
him more insufferable.
At least that is how I interpreted the second act, but it went
on so long that my attention started wandering and I became immersed
in the mechanics of Callow's performance, rather than the intricacies
of the plot.
He throws himself about the stage, writhes on the floor and metaphorically
chews up the scenery in his efforts to give life to the character.
Even when accusing his wife of adultery, he can't keep still,
but squirms around in a chair as if he was in physical pain, rather
than the mental agony he is supposedly feeling. Or is he?
Is the accusation merely another ploy to torment his wife and
demonstrate his unpleasantness and lack of real feeling?
If the character, as drawn by the author, Simon Grey, were more
three-dimensional, it might be a question with more meaning. As
it is, one feels it is merely another excuse to give Callow grounds
for yet another display of his virtuosity.
And that is how I came to view the whole play, a tour-de-force,
if you like that sort of thing, for Callow and not much else.
As is the case in plays of this nature, the rest of the cast
are sublimated to the greater good of the main part.
And here they gave good account of themselves in their unselfish
support to Mr Callow's performance.
Geraldine Alexander fleshed out the bones of the betrayed wife.
Lydia Fox made the secretary/mistress character sympathetic and
Tom Beard and Robin Soans differentiated between their various
characters skilfully and, on occasions, held their own successfully
in their scenes with Callow.
Mark Canavan, as his son, was a perfect example of the sins of
the father, etc, and Beverly Klein made the most of her scenes
as an old authoress friend.
However, ultimately, it all came down to Simon's Callow and the
success or otherwise of the play must depend on him.
I am sure that with a lot of judicious cutting, to bring the
running time down to a more reasonable length, and a stronger
directorial hand on Callow's performance than he appears to have
received from Laurence Boswell so far, the play should be more
pleasurable than I found it.
Last night, despite Callow's bravura display of histrionics,
I left wanting less rather than more.
Nevertheless, as it is still on tour, I may be forced to eat
my words when it opens in London, although I rather doubt it.
The Holy Terror, by Simon Gray. Director, Laurence Boswell;
Design, Ed Devlin; Lighting, Adam Silverman; Sound, Fergus O'Hare;
Music, Simon Bass.
WITH: Simon Callow; Geraldine Alexander; Tom Beard; Matt Canavan;
Lydia Fox; Beverly Klein; Robin Soans.
Producer: Theatre Royal Brighton Productions, Lawrence Boswell
Productions, Ambassador Theatre Group and Richmond Theatre Productions.
Richmond Theatre, The Little Green, Richmond, Surrey.
Mon, Feb 16 - Sat, Feb 21, 2004
Mon - Sat 7.45 pm Mat: Wed & Sat 2.30pm. Box Office: 020 8940