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Being Sellers

Review by Tulis McCall
(29 Nov 2010)

The one reason this production works is David Boyle, and that is only through talent and sheer force of will.

This is an odd narrative, set in a hospital ward (presumably a mental institution) where Sellers lies alone in his bed. He begins to talk to no one for no reason, even going so far as to make what appears to be eye contact with us and then laments that he is alone. There follows a history of Sellers life: born into theatre, tied to his mother, breaking away and into the radio where he did all the voices the law would allow, then his leap into the movies where he became another member of the long line of paranoid stars who could not manage their success. It was a time of martinis and excess and no one was looking out for the person at the center of the camera lens.

Boyle glides back and forth between characters with a light touch. We move from his mother to Inspector Clouseau to Fassbender within mili-seconds. He takes us through an entire radio episode on the BBC Home service where he plays 10 different characters - flashing back and forth like a fencing master.

By the end of the production he has seduced us into adoring him AND Peter Sellers. But it is not quite enough to make an evening. While the material is thin, it would have been more powerful to simply let Mr. Boyle have at it. Spotlight, stool - that's it. With material like this, all that needs to be done is get a fine actor and then trust him. Instead Boyle is burdened with a hospital bed over and under which he tumbles, marches, crawls and leaps. The addition of the fourth wall only serves to remove us even further. Boyle has to speak to us while pretending not to. Mr. Green, in adding these various production details, has diverted the audience from Mr. Boyle, when Mr. Boyle is exactly where we should be focused.

This is a mismanaged production that is whipped into a narrative because Boyle is an excellent actor, and that is what actors do. We call this the magic of theatre. I look forward to seeing him again.

(Tulis McCall)

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