The Three Minute Theatre, Manchester
In the Green Room of a TV soap opera assistant director Terry (Steve Hester who wrote the play) struggles with the practical problems and ego requirements of a group of actors. Things get even worse when it is announced that a plot development on the soap will result in the death of one of the characters.
The concept of generating comedy or drama from the backstage antics of actors is hardly new. The set-up is so well worn that you mentally tick off the stereotypical characters as they appear: lush who can no longer hold her liquor, closeted gay actor miscast in a macho role, demanding Thespian and publicity magnet. The material is so familiar that Hester could trust the audience to fill in a few gaps and make quick progress setting the scene. Unfortunately Act One proceeds at a pedestrian pace, with few laughs and little drama, leading to a weak climax.
Things improve greatly with Act Two as the cast are allowed more time to develop the characters and Hester stretches the script beyond the basic plot. There is real anger behind the character of Sophia, who is able to secure a better livelihood from manipulating the media than from an acting career, and Stacey Coleman gleefully develops the role into a cut-price Lady Macbeth. Yet there is a tentative edge to the production; neither Hester nor director Peter Easterbrook seem sure whether the conversion of Damian from a diva to a desperately caring and socially aware person is to be played for laughs or pathos.
On opening night life imitated art and director Easterbrook took on the role of Damian when a cast member became indisposed. He sets a naturalistic tone for the play with skilful over-lapping dialogue and restrained hysteria. In a fine ensemble cast Steve Hester leads by example with an understated depiction of grace under pressure.
The Green Room is not a bad play but it achieves nothing new from an over-familiar formula.
- Dave Cunningham