JULIE BURCHILL IS AWAY...
Soho Theatre + Writers' Centre, London W1
Opened 10 June, 2002

*** Opinionated newspaper columnist now gets recreated on stage

At once similar to and different from Tim Fountain's last one-man play Resident Alien, about Quentin Crisp, but entertaining even if you loathe Burchill.

Quentin Crisp always sounded as if he was talking in epigrams, so that when Fountain put pieces of Crisp's writing into the mouth of his stage character, it all sounded consistent. The same isn't true of Burchill, who judging by this 70-minute play tries extremely hard to sound polished when writing, but in speech just burbles banally. Consequently, when this stage Burchill moves between "spoken" and "written" material, you can hear the gears crash, so to speak.

I make no bones about it: I hate Burchill's writing. It seems endlessly, stridently attention-seeking. And I wasn't looking forward to this show. Fountain's writing ducks a few issues this, like his Crisp play, is an "authorised" work, so he can't alienate his subject. It was astute to cast Jackie Clune as Burchill, though: Clune is particularly skilled at enlisting audience complicity through smirks and a warmth of performance, even when at her bitchiest. Whether the real Burchill is so winning, I don't know, but Clune's version keeps even the "anti" contingent more or less charmed.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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