Courtyard at Covent Garden, London WC2
Opened 2 March, 2006

Abi Titmuss has managed to parlay her way up from anonymous appendage to Britainís foremost current celebrity-culture example of someone famous solely for being well-known. However, when she spoke of her ambition to act in the West End she probably didnít envisage an 80-capacity basement studio in the Theatre Museum, still less that on the evening after its press opening she would be playing to a quarter-full house.

Director Mike Miller used to teach Titmuss drama... not very well, on this showing. In fact, itís Millerís direction which cripples the first part of this 1984 double-bill of duets by Arthur Miller. (Yes, incredibly, Resurrection Blues was not the worst Arthur Miller opening of the week.) Miller the director has grasped that Some Kind Of Love Story is in part a parody of film noir, but his idea of parody is exponentially overdone. As a private eye on a years-long investigation, Jay Benedict grits his teeth and delivers the insane doodle of a performance demanded of him. As the multiple-personalitied hooker heís questioning, his counterpart is entirely at sea. Titmuss the person is trying to play Titmuss the celebrity trying to play Titmuss the actor, trying to play the main character trying to play her other personalities, trying to find some real plausibility or some consistency in the parody, or any damned thing that might offer her a momentís fingerhold. And not being given one. Benedict has the discipline to pull through, but barely.

The second piece, Elegy For A Lady, fares much better. A man in search of a present for a lover who may be dying finds both sympathy and insight from a shopkeeper, who assumes some of the characteristics of the intended recipient. Benedict is moderately impressive when being measured, less so when required to be demonstrative; Titmuss takes relieved refuge in a defined character, though she is still noticeably Doing Acting rather than inhabiting the role at all. Arthur Miller was apparently trying to comment on the fluid, frangible nature of reality. Indeed: we used to think that, in reality, people were famous for something.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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