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 The Theatreguide.London Review

A Life In The Theatre
Apollo Theatre, Spring 2005

This short (barely an hour and a quarter) early play by David Mamet is pretty bad. But it is a good vehicle for two actors, and those who come primarily to see the TV stars - Patrick Stewart and Joshua Jackson - in it will not be disappointed.

And I have to report that the cheaper seats are being filled with young people who clearly are not regular theatregoers, and I am happy that something is bringing them in to discover this new world.

Mamet's play is a series of backstage encounters between an older actor and a younger. At first avuncular and helpful, the older man is gradually exposed as a bit of a windbag and a not very good actor, and the young man outgrows him.

If it were well written, it would be a string of cliches. But it is clearly a tossed-off minor work of a young writer who had not yet found his natural subject or voice.

The first scene plays like a bad parody of Mamet's trademark speech rhythms, but the style is dropped immediately. We get to see bits of the bad plays the two characters act in, but the parodies are flabby. The two characters are so barely sketched in that it takes all the skills of an experienced actor to make anything of them.

Patrick Stewart is such an actor, and he does more to suggest a real human being in the older man than I would have thought possible.

Joshua Jackson (If the name means nothing to you, you are clearly over 25 and never watched the American teen-oriented soap Dawson's Creek) is not such an actor. He brings a pretty face to the role of the younger man, but little more - though, of course, that is all his fans would ask of him.

Director Lindsay Posner gets the rather static script up on its feet in a variety of backstage settings, but can't paper over all its faults.

So this one is strictly for the fans and the star-struck, unless you are enough of an acting student to want to watch how much Patrick Stewart can do with so little.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  A Life In The Theatre - Apollo Theatre 2005

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