Friday, 10 November 2017

REVIEW: The Tailor-Made Man at the White Bear Theatre

This play tells the true story of William Haines, a movie star in the 1930s who was fired for being gay. In the story we are shown the ups and downs of his long term relationship with partner Jimmie Shields and their close friends who help put their life back together when they come under attack from local homophobes. 

In a time of Weinstein and Spacey, we have been enlightened with some of the disgusting goings on behind the camera in the entertainment industry. This play speaks out about that and even though its this production marks the 25th Anniversary of the play, it still has a relevant and prominent message. And with the wonderful Mr Trump in power, the homosexual themes are very close to home. 

Bryan Hodgson brings a new life to this play, his clean and simplistic style cuts together like a movie. Transitions were slick and innovative with focused and precise acting.

Claudio Macor’s writing is on point and his telling of this story is wonderful. It seems to move very quickly in time, taking a while to realise how far in time we have come but the direction plows it forward. 

This production has been beautifully designed by Mike Lees, this small space is filled with trinkets that scream old Hollywood and its truly stunning to look at. The space is beautifully transformed. 

There is so much heart in this piece and even though its a well cut and clean play, its simplicity is stunning. They let the story do the work and its told beautifully. 

The cast are stellar, Mitchell Hunt triumphs as Haines. He is charming, frustrating and heartfelt all in one. His relationship with Jimmie (played by Tom Berkeley) is truthful and heartwarming. Even when it gets tough. Berkeley plays Jimmie as a caring and sweet partner and we want them both to succeed as business men and partners. 

Dean Harris and Edwin Flay play Louis B Mayer and Howard Strickling, the studios head and PR men. Unfortunately their scenes dipped in energy but they kept it intimate and embodied the characters to the point where we loved to hate them. 

The star of this show has to be Rachel Knowles, she multi-roled and each
character had definition and soul. I couldn’t take my eyes of her, a fantastic and very watchable actress. 

Yvonne Lawlor, Henry Felix and Peter Dewhurst round out the cast and together they are an incredibly strong company. 

The comedy in the piece is light and the story is beautifully heart breaking. This is a story that needs to be told more than ever at this time, its a gloriously put together piece with slick direction and beautiful acting. A strong creative team and a talented ensemble of actors. And even though this piece is 25 years old, its more relevant than ever. 

Review by Mark Swale

Rating: ★★★★
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