Pointlessly aping the West End's obsession with celebrity casting (and very nearly matching its prices, with all seats at £25), the only benchmark actually set by this puny new fringe play is a new low one for audience turnout to a star sighting. Out of the mere 70 seats available at Hampstead's New End, only 20 were occupied for the Sunday matinee I saw, despite the supposed high curiosity factor of seeing Jerry Hall in the close-up flesh.
For the record, she is both radiant and ravishing, her mane of blonde hair cascading over her shoulders and the kind of limbs that only the floor stops from going on forever, as someone once said of another long-legged actress. And she has certainly gained in assurance as an actress, too, since her last appearances on a London stage dressed (and briefly undressed) as Mrs Robinson in the West End production of The Graduate, where she took over from Kathleen Turner.
But if like me, you found The Graduate dramatically wanting and a challenge for anyone to animate, let alone a performer as inexperienced as Ms Hall, that play was King Lear next to the feeble concoction that serves as her vehicle this time, which is really much ado about nothing.
Hers isn't even the lead role: she barely appears in the First Act at all. It turns out, however, that it is her character, a sometime movie star called Sugar Moran, who has summonsed two of her ex-husbands, Scott Ginsburg (Stephen Greif) and Coutney Henderson (Harry Ditson) to a park bench reunion. The two men, it further turns out, once collected an Oscar together for a film they co-produced, though one still harbours resentment against the other for hogging the mike at the ceremony and not giving him a chance to speak.
Now when Henderson, who still fancies himself as a Hollywood player even though this very park bench serves as his office and to which he comes equipped with a laptop and two mobile phones to work every day, orders sandwiches to be delivered to him he gives the address as "the second bench after Irving on the North Side".
Ginsburg, meanwhile, is now a long-haired, Jewish Buddhist hippy, freshly returned from a Tibetan monastery, and Sugar, it seems, has plans for them both. What these are provides what little dramatic motor there is in Michael Rudman and Bud Shrake's play, which is also flatly directed by Mr Rudman. Hall's undoubted real-life glamour is no substitute for the fatal lack of suspense; though it was fun to see a chauffeur-driven Mercedes pull up at this tiny fringe venue afterwards to take her home. Not many actresses on fringe salaries enjoy such comforts!
- Mark Shenton