I’m Gonna Marry You Tobey Maguire at Southwark Playhouse Borough – review

The UK premiere production runs until 10 August

Tessa Albertson (as Shelby Hinkley) and Anders Hayward (as Tobey Maguire) in a scene from I'm Gonna Marry You Tobey Maguire at Southwark Playhouse Borough
Tessa Albertson (as Shelby Hinkley) and Anders Hayward (as Tobey Maguire) in I’m Gonna Marry You Tobey Maguire, © Manuel Harlan

Remember when the internet was a safe place to hide all your earnestness? Spending hours on your Myspace questionnaire and posting on your favourite celebrity’s message board, secretly fantasising that they’ll be flicking through and see your comment and be all, oh my god, this person really knows me, I love them?

Well, millennium teen Shelby Hinkley has bet a life sentence on it. On a school trip to LA, she has successfully nabbed Tobey Maguire from his drugged-up dentist appointment and stashed him in a duffel bag all the way back to her basement in South Dakota where she intends to marry him. Now what?

Tessa Albertson’s Shelby is a nerdy, sexually frustrated enthusiast with a streak of psycho-killer; gasping through nervous giggles (she’s got a deviated septum) and using Cosmopolitan magazine as a how-to guide for life and, in this instance, making your kidnappee fall in love with you: “How to take your relationship from hardly rocking to rock hard!” When she inevitably discovers that Tobey isn’t the Tobey of her dreams – he smokes, he’s an alcoholic, and he’s uncircumcised! – our hearts break with her, despite the fact she’s a crazed felon.

Anders Hayward as Tobey Maguire definitely has the harder job given that he’s definitely not Tobey Maguire. He’s adequate as a spoilt A-lister for the most part, but he really comes into his own in a slightly odd audience participation sequence, and suddenly his casting makes perfect sense. Making too much eye contact with the front row as he natters on, he is dangerously disarming, and you can all but hear the high-pitched tittering being choked back.

Rodrigo Hernandez Martinez’s set sees magazine covers of dreamy Tobey pasted, not only over the auditorium walls, but all over the bar and toilet stalls, along with a couple of Tobey cut-outs for your photo-op pleasure. So before the lights have even dimmed, it feels enough like a frenzied delirium that I’m already forgiving them for the “it was all a dream” ending we must surely be in for.

But credit to writer Samantha Hurley, she has committed to actually having Maguire in a crazed teenage fan’s basement, which unavoidably leads to a very long explanation. And closing in on two hours, it becomes more of a shaggy dog story, thoroughly entertaining for sure, but a bit aimless.

It seems like Hurley can’t decide if this is a comedy or a thriller, or a comic thriller, or a thriller turned comic, or a comedy turned thriller – and so on. There’s enough meat on the idea for it to be both, but it doesn’t need to keep flip-flopping between, and it needs a solid half-hour shaved off. An excellent premise all the same, with thankfully a lot of room for the brilliantly absurd. It’s Never Been Kissed meets Misery.