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I Ought to Be in Pictures (Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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The Library Theatre has chosen revisit the work of Broadway and Hollywood favourite, Neil Simon, following their success with The Odd Couple and Chapter Two. To be honest, the antics of Oscar and Felix take some beating, but director Paul Jepson has the confidence and panache to make I Ought To Be In Pictures the hit that it deserves to be.

The play opens with the unexpected arrival of 19-year-old Libby (Kirsty Osmon) on her father's Tinseltown doorstep. A surprise because screenwriter Herb (Stuart Fox) walked out on his wife and two children sixteen years earlier, in order to pursue his career. When Libby announces that she wants to be in pictures, her dad feels slightly perturbed. But the audience are aware that his daughter wants her dad far more than a life on the silver screen.

Herb's partner, make-up artist Steffy (Elizabeth Carling) allows these two to get closer at the expense of their own relationship, but due to Herb's lack of commitment, nothing in his life is rock solid. The second act explores the changes that this trio undergo, following the young girl's visit.

Simon is renowned for his witty one-liners and there is no shortage of them here, but there is a poignant undercurrent which takes you way beyond gentle comedy. Fox's Herb is selfish, career minded, yet quite lonely and lost. This gifted performer underplays perfectly, this means that the changes his character undergoes are neither cliched or corny, instead - he moves the audience, effortlessly.

Osmon, making her professional debut here, also highlights the pasing of time wonderfully well. In a packed two weeks, Libby changes before your very eyes. She arrives cocksure and ready for trouble, but leaves a woman. Osmon convinces you that she is in need of TLC throughout, in spite of her character's tough talk.

Carling makes the most of her underwritten role as feisty Steffy, an independent woman who refuses to be second best. She breathes life into the role, and even though many of the best lines go to her co-stars, she conveys a bitter edge to her  dialogue, providing Steffy with a contemporary exterior. 

Today, absent fathers are hardly unique, whch renders some elements of the script and situations less surprising than they were. But Jepson has crafted a fast paced, funny and touching play with a superb set by Paul Wills and engaging performances. 


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