Murray Gold's new play is supposed to show us a slice of London life as we approach the millennium. However, he has not exactly chosen a representative sample of characters; an actor and the writer of the terrible play that he's in, a recording artist and his manager, an actress, a nightclub bouncer - indicative of Soho perhaps, but it doesn't exactly speak about what most of us Londoners face. Although, just to add that touch of social reality, two homeless women wander between the scenes like a modern-day Greek chorus.
Furthermore, for a play that aims to be at the cutting edge of modern life, there is a curious old-fashioned feel to it. The idea of having two actors representing the nightclub feminine side and conscience seems to belong more to the symbolist movement of the 20s than to contemporary drama - particularly when the characters concerned deal only in clichés.
This play has no real plot as such, just a series of vignettes in which a number of stereotypes wander around, mouth a few platitudes and wander off. Such self-indulgence could be tolerated if Gold had a fine ear for dialogue but unfortunately he hasn't. 'Treat me like a woman, not like a hard-boiled sweet' could well have been the worst line uttered on a London stage this year - if it wasn't topped by 'Act like a man not like a slice of cheese' a few moments later. Even more worrying, the line that got the loudest laugh was when the actor, exasperated by his girlfriend's casual promiscuity, called her a c***. No, Oscar Wilde, this ain't.
One should feel sorry for the cast. Director Dominic Drumgoole has little to work with and there are some fine actors here, wasted in a play like this. Nathaniel Parker makes a good fist of the frustrated actor and, in the best scenes, Hugh Ross and Claire Rushbrook render a sympathetic doctor and nurse. As for the rest, they are fighting a losing battle with the dialogue. Particularly wasted is Amanda Root's music biz manager wrestling with a bizarre South African accent and a torrent of clichés.
The most preposterous scene is one in which a props man turns up at a hospital casualty department to borrow a hospital trolley. In real life, the room would be crowded, the nurses would be run off their feet and every trolley would be occupied. In this play, the props man and the nurse have a little chat before he wheels the trolley off. Perhaps if the author could step outside the confines of the Groucho Club for a bit, he might find that the world doesn't exactly stop for playwrights and actors and that real life is a bit tougher than he imagines.