A celebrity footballer in a hotel room? This can’t end well... John Donnelly’s new play doesn’t go exactly where you expect, but its story of a man hollowed out by fame is as familiar as it is grimly compelling. We follow self-aggrandising pseud Jason through three stages of his career in three different hotel suites, three horrific mini-worlds of flannel slippers and room service.
Russell Tovey gives a belting central performance – rather than growing up he merely grows harder, as the toxic world he occupies prevents him from sloughing off his adolescence. Gary Carr, as his old mate Ade, and Lisa McGrillis, as a delightful Geordie table-dancer, provide superb support, but this is Tovey’s play and he dominates the stage.
Donnelly’s script is well served by John Tiffany’s gymnastic direction, creating a world where machismo and performative sexuality saturate everything like cheap aftershave, but it’s also in need of some cuts. The first scene is extremely funny, but dramatically inert, while the second takes too long to say too little. But naturally it’s all building to a sickening crunch, and when Donnelly moves in to strike in the final scenes, he scores in spectacular fashion.
By Stewart Pringle