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Le Grand Mort review

  • Theatre, Comedy
  • 3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Julian Clary stars in this creepy, frustrating play from the late ‘Love Story’ writer Stephen Clark

Stephen Clark’s final play before his death last year is a sometimes searing look at intimacy and the darker desires that drive the human mind; a slightly disturbing work that insists sex and death are, pretty much, the same thing. 

The play centres around lonely middle aged man Michael (Julian Clary, for whom the play was specially written) who has picked up a younger guy in a bar. They go back to Michael’s place for dinner, with the play flicking between the bar and Michael’s stylish kitchen.

Justin Nardella has gone to town on the set, a very swish kitchen with more chrome than a morgue. It’s rare, certainly, to see a working induction hob on stage. 

But the spell sort of breaks when the text starts. The first third of the 90-minute play is Clary alone and speaking in rhyme. Really annoying rhyme. And Clary talks to the audience in the annoying rhyme while he cooks a puttanesca, talking mostly about necrophilia – imagine Dr Seuss, Hannibal Lecter and Mary Berry all in one.

Clary is very good within the limited range he has. He can do sardonic and insouciant like no one else, using his calm, delicate delivery to make the grim content seem run of the mill. The effect of his poise and composure is pretty chilling. 

There are some really lovely lines in there too from Clark, some poetry breaking through at points, but he too frequently flees to simple filth for punchlines, and the metaphors for penises and vaginas – like the ‘erect’ lenses of paparazzi cameras ‘penetrating’ Princess Diana’s dead body – are massively laboured. 

James Nelson Joyce’s arrival as Tim, bringing his own meal and demanding white wine rather than Michael’s carefully chosen red, is a blast of chaos. At first it lightens the creepy mood, until it becomes apparent that Tim is probably more dangerous than Michael, especially as Tim takes control of the situation, stripping naked and wielding a knife. 

It’s sort of frustrating though, because as powerful as the play is on themes of intimacy and abuse, it also becomes an uninteresting exercise in disturbing its audience. That, ultimately, undoes all its good work.

Written by
Tim Bano


£25-£40. Runs 1hr 30min
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