With all the action being set in 1951, when smoking was common place, there is plenty of opportunity for the cast reach for the cigarettes, especially in the first act. Which in today’s climate certainly helps date the piece and it is different nowadays to have the smell of smoke drifting across the footlights.
The story centres on Bryan Snow (Bob Saul) who has written a play called Dark Heritage. With the play about to be produced, we follow him meeting his leading lady, Lorraine Barrie (Donohue), attending the first read through, being pressurised to change the ending and cope with both the dress rehearsal and opening night. All the while we witness backstage tantrums between the cast, as well as, the constant battle of wills between Barrie and her director Ray Malcolm (Daniel Casey).
But it is Casey (instantly recognisable as Sergeant Troy in Midsommer Murders) who makes the play his own. His character, always with a smile, manipulates those around him, ultimately building to a showdown of wills between the director and the star before the play opens.
However, while there is some humour in Act Two, the biting, often savage wit in other Coward plays, is just not there. Likewise, we do not see the diva side in Donohue’s character until after the interval, but even then it seems strangely restrained.
While Star Quality is a gently meander down memory lane, I doubt it will stand the test of time, unlike other plays by Coward.