Putting on a play about putting on a play is boring. It’s not novel, it’s been done to death and, quite frankly, in a world where Lena Dunham produces achingly cool semi-autobiographical sitcoms, it’s just not meta enough. But, fear not, thesps: there’s a way to break free from the bone-crunching banality of meta-theatre. And it’s simple. You put on two plays at once, make your split-audience swap plays in the interval and get outrageously attractive “pro-dram” actor Dale (Barnaby Eliot) to run between the two wearing something closely resembling a leather mankini. Who knew?
Seeing Double, by Alex Woolf and Sadie Spencer from Greenlight Theatre, follows the story of an opportunistic delivery man (Oliver Gyani) who steals the identity of a renowned avant-garde theatre director. The play takes place in two rooms – the dressing room and the rehearsal space – with actors moving between the two and “spying” on each other using television screens.
So far, so chaotic. Throw in Nazi babies, sweaty interns and a confusing adaptation of Macbeth and you’ve got yourself a genuinely hilarious play. Yes, it's littered with the usual clichés (I’m talking “demi-standing”, breathing exercises and inner energy), but it's so brilliantly timed, staged and, well acted that it doesn’t matter.
The show belongs to ginseng tea-drinking costume designer Trudy (Lettice Thomas), who prompts raucous laughter from the entire audience every time she speaks, and leading lady Summer (Eleanor Henderson) who captures the essence of a feather turning into mud in the cast’s warm-up exercise just perfectly.
And the writing is good too, with no aspect of staging a play going unnoticed. There are a few rogue twists (it's not entirely obvious that a faux-director would get away with locking a props girl into a cupboard for two weeks and his affair with his leading lady is entirely unconvincing), but the play makes fun of itself. So it's all OK.
If only to marvel at the actors’ timing – or even just to catch a glimpse of Barnaby Eliot’s near-naked body, I implore you to go and see this play.