EFR - Reviews of Hanging Bruce-Howard

Hanging Bruce-Howard

Tue 13th – Mon 26th August 2013

reviews

Eliza Plowden

at 00:06 on 14th Aug 2013

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‘Hanging Bruce-Howard’ certainly has potential. However, in spite of the charismatic characters and amusing concept, the show failed to meet expectations. Gone Rogue is a group of talented young actors, yet their performance is disappointingly underwhelming.

The play follows a day in the life of Lloyd (Jed Marshall), an eccentric middle-aged actor suffering from a serious hangover. Hoping to revive his career by appearing in a play produced by famous billionaire Mr Lupowski (Robin Johnson), Lloyd finds himself in increasingly sticky situations.

‘Hanging Bruce-Howard’ is extremely entertaining in parts, and is strongest in its more basic jokes. In this comedy of errors, Lloyd destroys the script of his loyal friend, Brian (Peter Ward), and makes an embarrassing blunder by misidentifying Mr Lupowski. The cast make good use of props, splashing tea and water everywhere to exaggerate Lloyd’s many blunders.

The play is generally well acted. Marshall is convincing as the protagonist, stubbornly denying that his best days are over and becoming increasingly chaotic with each new drama. Caitlin Meredith is equally strong in her role as long-standing housekeeper, Mrs Bevan, shaking her head at every stupid mistake and giving Lloyd disregarded advice. Although each of the roles has comic potential, it is a shame that some of the less important characters, like Nigel and Mr Lupowski, do not feature more, as they introduce an energy that is otherwise absent from the performance. Luke Nicholls is great as needy fan, Nigel, who instigates the entire drama with his creepy obsession with Lloyd, although Sarah Divall is rather uninspiring as Celia, the clingy one-night stand. As a whole, the actors could play up their characters’ eccentricities a bit more.

Alexandra Bray’s scriptwriting is by no means weak: the characters certainly do not lack depth and the realistic dialogue is generally amusing. However, it the plot seems overcomplicated at times. Although each of the characters implicates the general story, the small venue becomes crowded towards the end of the play, and it is tiring concentrating on so many different conversations at once; the story would be better if it were stripped down.

For some reason, however, the performance just doesn’t quite click at times. However, ‘Hanging Bruce-Howard’ has the makings of a thoroughly amusing play.

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Anjali Joseph

at 11:08 on 14th Aug 2013

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Whilst battling the consequences of his drunken actions and promises from the previous night, washed-up actor Lloyd Bruce-Howard (Jed Marshall) tries to charm Russian billionaire producer Lupowski (Robin Johnson) into commissioning his friend Brian’s new play, in a bid to re-launch his own career. So far, this sounds not too far removed from the plot of ‘The Hangover’ and initially it seems that this might be where Gone Rogue’s production of original writing, ‘Hanging Bruce-Howard’ is headed. However, the initially comic physical interaction between Lloyd and simpering fan Nigel (Luke Nicholls) quickly deteriorated into a dirge of repeated jokes and a highly predictable plotline which, despite several attempts to resuscitate it with slapstick humour, fell flat. Whilst the cast’s energy and enthusiasm was infectious, it was not quite adequate to compensate for the shortcomings in both the script and individual performances themselves.

Jed Marshall was pleasingly flamboyant as the Sebastian-Flytesque Lloyd, and vocally his performance was convincingly rich. Equally, Caitlin Meredith’s feisty performance as Mrs Bevan demonstrated sound comic timing, and the pace of her and Marshall’s numerous altercations was satisfyingly rapid. However, the performances from the rest of the ensemble were patchy, from Sarah Divall’s shrilly rigid caricature of Lloyd’s mistress, Celia, to the questionable Polish, Russian and American accents of Patryk Haste, Johnson and Christopher Barlow. Haste’s portrayal of a Polish plumber was particularly disappointing, his focus on the accent turning his dialogue into an oddly rhythmic monotone. The climax of this piece, in which the actors ad-lib, creating a chaos of shouted threats and defences, was jarringly overwrought.

In general these performances lacked nuance, but it could be argued that the script left little space for any of the actors to provide anything more than a one-dimensional performance. Alexandra Bray’s writing was riddled with heavy-handed innuendos and clumsy resolutions to plot twists, such as the initial dismissal of Nigel. Roger’s vocabulary and idioms seemed far more English than American, further exacerbating the existing issues with Barlow’s accent.

As an aside, the production team need to take into account the scale and dimensions of their performance space, and how this impacts on the details of their set and props. Not only was it clear to anyone sat on the sides of the stage that the “writing” in the scripts themselves was merely a series of scribbles, but the scenes involving water inadvertently showered the front row.

An enthusiastic and well-intentioned original piece, ‘Hanging Bruce-Howard’ failed to deliver the potential comedy and wit that this concept could have provided.

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