Theatre review: The Little Dog Laughed

Posted on: 29 January 2010 by Mark O'haire

Laurence Green reviews Douglas Carter Beane’s vitriolic, and at times sharply funny satire at the Garrick Theatre.

Hollywood’s hypocrisy about sex, most notably how gay actors are forced to conceal their homosexuality is the target of Douglas Carter Beane’s vitriolic, at times sharply funny satire The Little Dog Laughed (Garrick Theatre), directed by Jamie Lloyd.

Rising film star Mitchell Green is every girl’s fantasy and soon to become a household name, thanks to his devilishly determined agent, Diane. But with Mitchell on the brink of Tinseltown stardom, Diane encounters one teensy-weensy obstacle - she can’t seem to keep her leading man in the closet. With Mitchell’s new ‘friend’ Alex, a rent-boy whom he has fallen for, on the scene and Alex’s attractive girlfriend Ellen (yes, he has a girlfriend) causing a drama of her own by revealing she is pregnant by him, what lengths will Mitchell go to play the part and will there be a typical Hollywood ending when the final credits roll?

This is not what might initially appear to be a rather sordid comedy, although there is some strong language and a touch of male nudity, but it is nevertheless an insubstantial play with a thin storyline and characters with whom it is hard to engage. Nevertheless this comedy of manners provides a convincing attack on a venal industry in which hearts and souls are as expendable as used handkerchiefs. Indeed as a merciless satire on the superficial world of show business and the game playing of the movie industry, it frequently hits its target - “A writer with final cut?” snorts the show business agent from hell. “I’d rather give firearms to small children” It is just a pity the play lacks resonance, warmth and depth.

The vitality of this production is mainly due to an excellent, scene stealing performance from Tamsin Greig as the cynical, heartless, couture-clad Diane, who seizes every opportunity for badinage and acerbic wit. She receives good support from Rupert Friend as Mitchell, Harry Lloyd as the naïve rent boy Alex, and Gemma Arterton as Ellen, his long suffering girlfriend. Even the bright white and yellow walls of the box-shaped set (designed by Soutra Gilmour) serve to show up the self-obsessed, empty lives of the people who live within them.

Cur inane, dishonest, celebrity-fixed culture is mercilessly exposed here for what it really is.

By Laurence Green

Where: Garrick Theatre

When: plays until 10 April

Box Office: 0844 579 1974

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