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His Greatness

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Canadian writer and actor Daniel MacIvor's latest play is a taut, funny, irony-tinged drama inspired by the fate of the great gay playwright and poet Tennessee Williams who met the most prosaic of deaths choking on the cap of an eye-drops bottle in a hotel room at the age of 71.

The Playwright (played by Matthew Marsh) relies utterly upon his assistant (Russell Bentley) to function in everyday life. They spar, bargain and cheer each other up with the well-rehearsed patter of a married couple.

But the business nature of their relationship means the Playwright can also demand that his companion find him a young male escort (Toby Wharton) for the opening night of a new play and on this occasion it proves to be the catalyst for the lonely outcome we can all see coming.

Che Walker faultlessly directs power, tension and sexual attraction as they shift and flow around designer JeanMarc Puissant's too-familiar bland hotel room.

Impersonation or even interpretation of an acclaimed playwright must be daunting but Marsh - who took the role only ten days before the opening - is superb, from the flourish of his fingers to his casual Southern drawl. He is well matched by Bentley's witty, put-upon Assistant.

His Greatness might not shatter any artistic boundaries but while wisely avoiding mimicking the trademark lyricism of Williams' work it nevertheless offers up some striking lines: "Happy endings are an evil fiction".

- Vicky Ellis


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