Theatre Review: The Little Dog Laughed @ the Garrick Theatre

By Zoe Craig Last edited 97 months ago
Theatre Review: The Little Dog Laughed @ the Garrick Theatre

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Tamsin Greig as Diane, a woman with a cellphone for a soul. Photo by Hugo Glendinning

Douglas Carter Beane's new play, The Little Dog Laughed, brings gay Broadway's revenge on straight Hollywood to our open West End.And while at times it's a little too American to quite hit the notes of a perfect satire, The Little Dog Laughed still packs in enough laughs and punches to make it a fun night out.Mitchell (Rupert Friend) is a film star on the edge of the big time. But, as his caustic agent Diane (Tamsin Greig) points out, he "suffers from a slight recurring case of ho... mo... sexuality". Having fallen in love with a bisexual rent boy (Harry Lloyd), he also thinks he's on the edge of coming out to the world. Diane sees career suicide: "What? Are you British?" (Arrre yew Briddish?), squawks Diane. "Dew yeew haeve a KNIGHTHOOD?!"Hollywood's hypocrisy about sex is laid hopelessly bare in this show. Diane, a lesbian agent, wants to make a gay playwright's gay play into a film. In order to succeed, she needs to persuade both the writer and her up-and-coming star to go straight. The playwright needs to rewrite; Mitchell needs to "shut up."As Diane points out: when a straight guy plays a gay part, it's a stretch. When a gay actor plays a gay role, "it's not acting. It's bragging."Tamsin Greig is wonderful as Diane, a woman who has a cellphone in place of a soul. Great line follows great line, a study in modern Machiavellian manipulation. Duplicitous to the last, this is a woman with an unhealthy combo of ambition and contempt for the industry she hates and thrives on. The scene where she meets the (unseen) writer is wonderful: "Give the writer final cut? I'd rather give firearms to small children," she shrieks, to peals of (audience) laughter.Against this brash comedy sit quieter, awkward, tender moments between Mitchell and Alex, the rent boy. Alex's girlfriend Ellen, played by Gemma Arterton, while underwritten, also provides a lot of light and shade, as she wanders through something of a post-teen crisis. All three provide some hard-hitting real emotions, eyes welling up with various frustrations. But these feelings are generally swept away, like an unwanted tear from a perfectly microdermabrased face, before it gets too mawkish. The Little Dog Laughed is tied up with an interesting twist as we realise we're possibly watching a version of the amended film script recommended by Diane: "Write up the girl...". While Carter Beane's script shines, the plot is perhaps a little too glib to make it a supreme satire.And we can't help waiting for the day when The Little Dog Laughed is revived as a quaint, old-fashioned, dated comedy of old-Hollywood manners.The Little Dog Laughed plays at The Garrick Theatre until 10 April. Tickets from £15. Call 0844 579 1974 for tickets, or see www.nimaxtheatres.com for more information.

Last Updated 22 January 2010