A/V Room









Callow tour-de-force is simply not enough

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 touching.

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 0088.


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